“A Christmas what?”
“A Christmas Cracker.”
It was a few days before Christmas on a cold evening in the North of Holland and I was desperately trying to explain the very English tradition of Christmas Crackers to my Dutch family-in-law. A task which I was quickly discovering is very hard to do without sounding like a complete and total mad man…
“It’s a kind of long tube thing…”
… Mainly because the Dutch don’t have the tradition of Christmas Crackers…
“…and two people pull an end each…”
…and when you try to explain it to someone who has never heard of it before, it does sound like a slightly odd tradition.
“Then it goes bang and you get a small gift, a paper hat and a bad joke.”
Or maybe I was just doing a very bad job of explaining it. The look on their faces seemed to suggest that that was a possibility.
I was not used to this. Normally I am the one being confused by Dutch traditions and thinking they sound completely mad as some poor Dutch person tries to explain them to me. Now the situation had been reversed and my world turned upside down. Now I was the crazy one.
“Does the joke have to be bad?” My father-in-law asked.
“Yes. That is very important. That way everyone can groan together about how bad the joke is and the person reading it can’t be blamed for telling it wrong,” I answered, explaining the deep psychological mind games behind Christmas cracker jokes.
“And you have to wear the paper hat?” asked my brother-in-law.
“Of course. You wear it during dinner,” I answered as if pleading them to understand.
“I… don’t know… but you do.” To be honest my argument might have been losing some ground.
There was a short pause.
“Very strange people those English,” commented my mother-in-law.
I decided they were probably right. There was no point denying it. It is a very weird tradition that proves the English can be as strange as the Dutch.
Besides, I was never going to win. It was three against one.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t call back.”
It’s not the kind of things you normally expect your true love to answer the phone with when you return her call that you missed just moments before but that is what I was greeted with when doing so. I guess we had made a good run of it. Two years of marriage is nothing to be sniffed at in this day and age. Luckily she let me know what she was referring to before I had finished mentally dividing our stuff.
“That way I could open the two boxes that just arrive, and say I at least tried to ask if I could first.”
She was of course referring to a very exciting delivery that we had just received, a delivery which I did indeed make her wait to open until I got home from work that evening, a delivery which I am very excited to now share the contents of with you…
Invading Holland T-Shirts!
I am so excited. You might remember that I was messing around with some t-shirt designs a while ago. Well, the response that I got was so great that I decided to get some of them made for real. And now they are for Sale!
Imagine wearing a “Dutch Circle Party Survivor” t-shirt to an actual Dutch Circle Party, or wearing the “I See Dutch People” t-shirt on Queens Day or any other situation where you are likely to bump into a lot of Dutch people (Any day in Holland).
Both designs have been professionally silk screen painted on Fruit of The Loom T-shirts and are available in Small, Medium, Large, X-Large and XX-Large.
Prices & Discounts:
T-shirts are €19.50 each, €18.50 each when ordering three or more and €17.50 each when ordering five or more. Please note that delivery costs are not included in the price. I can give more accurate details on sending costs via email when I know how many you want and where they are being sent to.
I’m busy working on the official web-shop but it’s not quite ready yet. However, you can already order (and more importantly; receive) your very own Invading Holland T-Shirt by emailing me at:
In your email please include information about which t-shirts you would like, how many, in which sizes and which address you would like them sent to. I can then send you an official invoice along with information on how you can pay for your order (by direct bank transfer or PayPal). I can then post off the t-shirts once the order is complete.
For those of you who thinks this sounds too much like the kind of shady deal that you would get offered by some dodgy bloke down the pub, don’t worry! Invading Holland has been registered as an official business and you might find the following information comforting:
Invading Holland Designs
KvK Number: 55885551
Invading Holland Badges are now also available!
Great news! Thanks to your help this blog has won an award from expatsblogs.com
I am extremely happy and would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped out by submitting such amazing comments about this blog. I was really touched by them all and I feel very lucky that so many people enjoy my ramblings. I can’t mention all of them but here are a few of my favourites (I might steal some for the about me page):
“A wonderful take on life in the Netherlands through an Englishman’s eyes. I love his self-deprecating humour, fantastic illustrations, and accident-prone ways.” – Alison
“Reading Stuart’s blog make me love being so Dutch :-) Every post is hilarious and make me laugh. If you’ve never read is, let’s get started!” – Dienke
“I’ve been reading Stu’s blog since before I moved to The Netherlands. My (Dutch) girlfriend had heard of it and pointed it out to me whilst I was still in the UK. After reading one or two posts, I was hooked and did a complete catch-up from post number 1! I always loo forward to a new post.” – Gez
“I follow many blogs, but there are only a very slim few that I actually come back to again and again! Stu’s blog about the random encounters and experiences he runs into in the land of cheese and windmills are so incredibly funny, and hit the spot with precision, as to what it is like to be an outsider in Holland.” – Rebekka
“Stu is the voice of all expats in the Netherlands… and he says it in a much more humorous way than the rest of us ever could. I love his deep look at the eccentricities of life here in Holland.” – Tiffany
“Few bloggers can match Stu’s wit and insight as he describes his encounters with the everyday idiosyncrasies of Dutch culture. Often recognizable, frequently hilarious and always entertaining, Invading Holland is by far my favorite. Go Stu!” – Victor
See all of them here
And it would be very rude of me not to wish huge congratulations to all the other brilliant writers who won as well. Well done everyone. Go and check them out.
– Gold: Adventures in Integration
– Bronze: A Flamingo in Utrecht
– Honourary: Dutch Pancake
– Honourary: The European Mama
– Honourary: The Wooden Shoes Diaries
When I opened the letter box and saw the envelope I instantly knew what it was. An official reply from Sinterklaas himself! An actual letter from the Sint uit Spanje! My eyes went wide, my heart skipped a beat and I made a sound that some might consider a squeal of delight. Fully of excitement I rushed up stairs as fast as I could to share the news. I burst into the living room, waving the envelope in the air like it was a winning lottery ticket.
“I got a reply! I got a reply!”
My wife didn’t even have to ask. I’d been talking about this moment for days. She knew exactly what I was blathering about without a moment’s hesitation and, like me, was instantly excited.
“Open it! Open it!” She urged me.
But I wanted to savour this moment. Forcing myself to be calm I put the envelope down on the table and for a short while we both just looked at it, pondering what might be inside. You don’t just rush opening a letter from Sinterklaas. It is an important moment in any 33 year old man’s life.
I gave myself a moment and then… when I was ready I took a deep breath, slowly picked the envelope up from the table, carefully opened it, took the letter out from inside, cautiously unfolded it and then… handed it to my wife for translation.
When the boat arrives in the harbour and I see all those happy smiling faces and waving little hands, I am always happy to be back in Holland. Some children find it all a little too exciting/scary. That is not necessary. I completely understand that children can’t always be sweet and good but as I always say to my Pieten; The most important thing is that you always try your best.
I hope you’ll enjoy this Sinterklaas time and find it fun. Then we’re all happy.
Lots of greetings
A long letter with a lot of questions. We can’t answer them. Sorry. We’re not sure how old you are either but… everything is good, also this letter. Bye for now.
The writing Piet
This is amazing! I might not have received an answer to my questions but I am still so happy to get a letter from Sinterklaas himself… and even a personal message from the writing Piet (who might be on to me that I was not completely honest about my age). Sinterklaas must have also realized I enjoy drawing cartoons because he included a colouring activity sheet on the back of the letter.Thank you Sinterklaas.