Seeing Abraham or Sarah! A fun Dutch Tradition When You Turn 50!

In the Netherlands turning 50 is considered an extremely special occasion and one that’s typically marked with the installation of a large life-size doll (of an elderly man or woman) in your front garden for the day (or a few hours), often with a corresponding sign that reads “Abraham 50 jaar” (Abraham 50 years old) or “Sarah 50 jaar” (Sarah 50 years old). It is a tradition that honours a person gaining wisdom through experience.

How timely this post is – our Queen, “Koningin Máxima” becomes 50 tomorrow!

Of course with COVID, parties are not able to happen but doesn’t stop this fantastic tradition. Your house, office or even both will be decorated by your friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and, mannequins and as mentioned above, a life-sized doll of YOU. I absolutely love it and while I’m not looking forward to becoming 50 (a few short years) my kids are both well-aware that I EXPECT a Sarah outside 🙂

Depending on what the person looks like or interests are, there are various companies here which you can hire the inflatables.

Here is photo of my neighbour’s Sarah. As she has red hair, it’s very appropriate.

And on Friday, this was put up for my other neighbour – he’s bald so also fitting!

THE ORIGIN

The phrase “Abraham gezien hebben” is actually rather appropriate, as it’s based on a passage in the Bible, John 8: 56-58. In this particular passage, Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Jews, who ask him: “You are not yet fifty but you have seen Abraham?” Jesus replies “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. The Jews are clearly surprised at this answer, because Abraham had in fact died before Jesus was born. Back in those days, it was very rare for people to turn 50, therefore, it was a very special occasion! People would look up to you and you would be seen as wise. As Sarah was Abraham’s wife, hence that is used for females turning 50. It is also common to bake a cake, bread or cookies in the shape of a male or female figure.

BEYOND 50?

You can also carry on the tradition for each decade of a person’s life after 50, although these are not as nearly as popular is Abraham and Sarah. Also sometimes when couples are married for 50 years, they also get a big overly decorated house too!

  • 60th Birthday – “Isaac” or “Elisabeth” birthday
  • 70th Birthday – “Jacob” or “Anna or Lea” birthday
  • 80th Birthday – “Joseph” or “Deborah” birthday
  • 90th Birthday – “Anthony” or “Ruth” birthday
  • 100th Birthday – “Methuselah” or “Judith” birthday

What do you think of this tradition? Would you love it or hate it if you had a big doll outside your home? I know some cultures wouldn’t like this but I LOVE it. I often stop and take a photo of the houses I see decorated. The one above is around the corner from my house – so brilliant stopped my bike just to take the photo and congratulate the person decorating outside. You must always congratulate! 🙂

Sinterklaas Surprises – Love It or Hate It It’s a Dutch tradition and we LOVE it!

Sinterklaas Surprises – love it or hate it – it’s tradition!  If you have kids group 5-8, chances are your kids are required to make a “SUR-PRE-ZUH” leading up to Sinterklaas.  If you are new to Netherlands, you might not want to get caught off guard and show up with something less than expected – might be uncomfortable for the receiver and of course your child the giver.  This mom writes about her experiences on a local site.

Last year was our first full school year in the Netherlands, so it was our first experience with “Sinterklaas Surprises” and celebrating Sinterklaas.  So we made our own family celebrations  and then each year we add (or subtract) or edit.  This year the kids were looking so forward to all the festivities.  But as we also celebrate Christmas, they knew not to expect too many gifts on the 5th.  Also this was the first year we had two non-believers so it made it easier to set expectations.   Though it was quite sad at the same time as M – who had been questioning it all along was apparently told by the teacher – grrr!  So in the end – she was more mad that sad – asking “how could you lie to me for so many years?”  She is over it now but there was one full night of unconsolable drama and tears….

All in all, what the kids were looking forward to most this year was the Sinterklaas Surprises at the school.  In fact, we visited Vlieland again but this time our plan was to head up on the 5th – so no movie this year.  But when we realized they’d do the surprises in the morning, we moved to the evening ferry so  they could be at school the entire day to participate.   Luckily our school has a study day the next day, so we had the day off and could enjoy our time in Vlieland.   I’ll make a separate post about our time there.

SINTERKLAAS SURPRISES

You can see from this year’s surprises, some kids with and without help from parents spend a lot of time and thought into the surprise and others not much.

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For a child receiving a present which  is GEARED TOWARDS THEM and THEIR PERSONAL INTERESTS & HOBBIES is very special.   Perhaps even especially for girls. They even fill in forms to include their hobbies and interests along with things they do not like.   So with that said, even if you have not a creative bone in your body, a simple google search will turn up tons of ideas like this Pinterest board with nearly 300 ideas50 Nice & Easy Sinterklaas Surprise Ideas!   It is really not that hard to create a surprises but I guess you have got to want to make it and not treat it as a nuisance.

Sadly unlike last year, where she received an amazing surprise – a purple ice skate, [which is still on display in her bedroom] this year, she received one that was let’s just say more suited for a child who plays soccer and probably created in less than 10 minutes the night before.  

So for her and rightly so, she was a bit disappointed.  But as the is a mature 9 year old, and a nice girl, she didn’t get upset or cry, but you could tell when she brought it home, she was disappointed.   I wonder what this boy’s reaction would be if he were to receive a ballet slipper whipped together in less than 5 minutes – I’m sure he’d also be disappointed!  Anyway, this was her surprise and it goes down in the record books and went out in the next days recycling.

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My son received one right up his alley – a “MEME”! As he is always posting MEMEs on his friends app and sharing them with me so it was really perfect!

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WHAT MY KIDS MADE MADE

Here are the suprises my kids gave – along with a typed poem – the one of the left was a punch surprise – inside each hole was treats and a big chocolate letter inside.    And the dog looking cat (ha ha) was made out of fluffy cotton balls – inside the tiny box in the front was a package of washi tape and inside was also a giant chocolate letter.

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SINTERKLAAS KOEKJES

On the 5th there is a bit of a class party, Sint and some Piets visit the school, etc so I baked Sint cookies for both kids to take to school.  Extras were given out to the administration, teachers and helper as a thank you.   In fact, as I’m still starting out with my cookies, I did two rounds.

This first photo were of my first set of “oefenen koekjes” = practice cookies which I shared with local kids and my Inburgering classmates.   I picked up this cookie cutter for €1.50 at Dille & Camille but I found it a bit too small.

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Second photo were the actual cookies which were brought into school.  I ended up ordering online a larger Sint cookie cutter for €2.50 from Koekdesign.nl and it was perfect!    I put the in plastic baggies as I assumed some kids would take them home, but turned out they all ate them there.  Good to know for the future – no bags!   Now that I have PME 00 and 0 tips,  I know I can do a better job but they kids thought these were wonderful as is so I was happy about it and they did taste good (according to my kids). 
I never eat decorated cookies – I LOVE making and decorating but I don’t eat them. 

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I’m going to make some Winter themed cookies for their Kerst Dinner.  I’m thinking Extra Large Snowflakes, Xmas Trees, Hot Chocolate Mugs . My son asked me to also make my chili, so I’ll do both.

UPDATE:  Here are some photos of the cookies I made for the Kerst Diner –  slowly I’m getting better with consistency of the icing- still can’t get icing through the tiny  0, 00 and 1 PME to allow for fine details as hoped.   So while the tiny details are still a problem for me, I’m sure the kids are going to love these cookies – or at least I hope! 

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Maebh had a friend over and they decorated some cookies – but using buttercream frosting instead – as there was not enough time to let the royal icing dry.  Here are two photos of their beautiful creations! They are very excited to bring them to school to show their masterpieces.

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2020’s SURPRISES

Just a quick update to this post to share this year’s surprises –  A llama and a tennis racket & trophy! 

While they have 350+ days to wait until next year to start again but only for the one remaining child in groep 8! I am pretty sure middlebare students don’t do surprises.

If you are reading this and have an opinion on the whole tradition of Sinterklaas Surprises, do let me know.  Do you love it like us or do you dread it each year?

Christmas Games: Kids Edition

Each year at Christmas, the family used to play game with small gifts.  You’d roll the dice and depending on the #, you would either open a present, take a present from someone, etc.  Of course, this is hard if you are very young – it’s hard to get a present taken away from you.

As the game has lost appeal to many of the adults, it was passed along to the kids.  We knew our kids would enjoy it.  In fact, Maebh asked if it can be played again at the Easter Break when their cousins are in from Los Angeles.

In the end they all ended up with a number of presents, some enjoyed their presents more than others. Though there was not a single toy which they all wanted so that was positive.  Our kids requested to play this game each year even if it was just with us four – as they find it super fun – so we agreed and it’s now part of our annual Christmas tradition!

Also each child received a couple gifts from Santa, as he delivered their gifts to Dublin. First our kids opened their stockings and found some small things.

Astroid & Pixie left…

Between courses they opened their gifts.

Big success with gifts Santa!  A drone, Feyernoord hat and Mercedes Benz model, 3d art, painting kit and some sewing kits.

Boston Trip: Easter Egg Hunt & Dinner with Dear Friends!

Over the past 8 years or so, our family has been having Thanksgiving and many Easter dinners with our friends John and Marlie and their family.  So it was only fitting as we were in the states for Easter to join them for dinner and their annual neighborhood Easter Egg hunt.

The egg hunt is at the house of a really nice couple, who host it at their house in Byfield, which is just a few minutes from my favorite beautiful, Newburyport.
A yummy bloody mary bar is set up which is hard to resist having a couple, then they blow the boat air horn and the kids are off in search of the “golden egg“.

I made these little eggs, which tasted good, but were a bit ugly.

This year there were nine kids in all, who all love the adventure to fill their baskets up with tons of plastic eggs filled with chocolate.  A couple years back, Soren found the “golden egg” and inside it was a $10.00 bill plus some candy.   We then took it home, had it for a year and then returned it the following year filled up again.

Soren was very close to finding it and was in the right direction, but just a few steps too late.  We did, however, discuss that if either he or Maebh didn’t find it, we’d congratulate the winners and not cry.  They were totally fine with it and when you see the amount of candy in the eggs, you’d know why.

After the egg hunt, we walked by back to Lenway Avenue to be with our friends.  We pass a lovely red house on the corner.
Back at their house, the kids watched Frozen, played bubbles, scooters, jump rope and with the little golden doodle, Derby.

It was so great to see them and catch up, as we have been living in the UK since Sept 2012, we have not seen them in person for a while.  And dinner and dessert was, as always, delicious!  Such a nice family and glad we met them one day in Dominican Republic!

Elf On The Shelf: MAKING CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

Silently I’m snickering to myself about my two Elf On The Shelf purchases today.

I intentionally didn’t get them Elves last year (or the year before) as I wanted them to be well-aware of them and the meanings. Plus I really thought they were too young to get it and fully enjoy it.  Now at nearly 6 and 3.5, this Christmas tradition will be fun with the kids and I.  Unlike some dads, I’m certain Nils will want nothing to do with it.

The whole concept is behind the fun is that Santa knows who is naughty or nice. The scout elf [in our case two – one for each child] is sent from the North Pole at the beginning of the holiday season (normally around Thanksgiving and leave on Christmas Eve with Santa) to help Santa Clause manage his naughty and nice lists.  When a family adopts an elf and gives it a name, the elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day’s adventures. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their elf each morning.  

There are two simple rules that every child knows when it comes to having an elf.

1. An elf cannot be touched; Christmas magic is very fragile and if an elf is touched it may lose that magic and be unable to fly back to the North Pole.

2. An elf cannot speak or move while anyone in the house is awake! An elf’s job is to watch and listen.


As added fun, some Elves can be very mischievous and do some naughty & silly things at times. Some families just move them around the house and the kids search for them.  But I think it’s fun to do a mix of both. 
While it may seem like a lot of extra effort, I think it’s fun that the two elves can get into trouble together too – just like Soren & Maebh.   I’ll be sure they are introduced and sent her as brother & sister.

Here are just a few examples of photos others have done. Really the ideas are endless…and can be so funny.  

While I have some time, I need names and I think the girl is going to be PIXIE and the boy is ASTEROID but have been toying with ASTRID & OBILIX.  Once they are named that is it, that is their name FOREVER!    More about The Elves and my plans later.. but for now, I just need to intercept the packages being delivered by the postman and hide them.

UPDATE:  Our two Elves have arrived.  Now names are in order along with their entrance plan, though the kids do know that Santa is sending special helpers instead of Herbert the Penguin.

Decorating Easter Eggs

Today Soren & I decorated/colored Easter eggs for the first time.  We used a kit we got in the Netherlands.  It could be any easier – you drop the colored tablets into jars of water then already cooked eggs, put on stickers and you are done.

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I know many people actually eat the eggs after but I’d NEVER in a million years consider doing that.  Yuk!  I already have a huge issue with eating food coloring.   I even had fun…