Sunday, December 7, 2014

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”  
~     Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

The whole idea of Christmas giving has certainly morphed into a giant overblown lawn-lit plastic ball!  There is a post going around on Facebook that reads: "I think as you grow older your Christmas list gets smaller and the things you want for the holidays can't be bought."   Those of us who are "older" know there is truth wrapped in that!  But, the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas relates to the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men -- Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh.
Gold was a gift for a king; frankincense was a gift for Jesus' divinity, and myrrh was a spice for His burial. Even though these gifts provided financial resources for the round trip Mary and Joseph took to Egypt, they were symbolic of the future roles of Jesus.

In modern times, gift giving has changed dramatically, but here is a little Dutch gift giving history.  In Holland, St. Nicholas Eve is December 5, and the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas with festive family parties when gifts and surprises are exchanged. In the Netherlands, unlike other places, adults as well as children join in the fun. As the Dutch like an element of surprise, a small gift may be wrapped in a huge box, or it may be hidden and require following clues to discover where it is.
But the Dutch celebrations are far more controversial than the Santa Claus tradition enjoyed in the rest of the world. It's all down to the appearance of Sinterklaas's helper Zwarte Pieten, or 'Black Peter'.  Children are told that if they misbehave during the year Black Peter will put them in a sack and take them to Spain for a year to teach then how to behave. Dutch tradition says that St. Nicholas lives in Madrid, Spain(must like the tapas bars more than bitterballen).

The character has jet black skin, which is explained to Dutch children today as coming from soot in the chimneys. Traditionally though the character is black because he is supposed to be a Moor from Spain.

Regardless of the controversy, the event is still seen as being fun for all the family, with a whole host of fun and games for children. Sinterklaas parties are held that include treasure hunt games with poems and riddles to give the children clues to find presents left behind by St Nick.

St. Nicholas Day Eve has its own special treats too. One type of biscuit produced for the day is called 'letter blanket' or 'banket letter' which is made from marzipan or pastry.  The biscuits are made in the shapes of the first letter of the peoples names who are at the party.
On St. Nicholas' Day (6th December) children in Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and some other European countries open some of their presents also.

As Amy Tan expresses,
"Writing is an extreme privilege but it's also a gift. It's a gift to yourself and it's a gift of giving a story to someone."

I hope enjoy the weekly gift of knowledge and trivia!

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