New year, old resolution – to walk for at least 30 minutes every day. Been pretty successful so far, but it is only day 4. Having a subject to look out for – this week it was births in the neighbourhood – has changed my walks for the better. I have been exploring some new routes, and I have been really looking at what’s around me and noticing things that never struck me before. And I walk for longer without realizing it, I just head home when I’m hungry or thirsty or I need to pee or it’s raining.
New life for a new year – that’s what I was looking for. The Dutch do like to celebrate publically. You will often see a house bedecked with bunting or balloons. It might be that the house has just acquired new residents and the neighbours are welcoming them to their new home. Or it might be to celebrate a marriage-related event – just married, 25 years married, or 12 and a half years married (yes, that IS an anniversary in the Netherlands). Or a significant birthday – the most significant being 50 when you become either Sarah or Abraham and a very old looking effigy of you is placed in the garden. Or the event that leads to all the birthdays – the birth itself.
Family and friends create an artistic announcement in the front garden. Everything you need to know is there – that the child is born, whether it’s a boy or a girl, and the name. Consequently a number of social faux pas can be avoided. The classic: “He’s a bit of a bruiser isn’t he!”, when it’s a girl. Or the spluttering of tea when hearing the name for the first time, “She’s called Pumpkin”.
Here are the new arrivals – complete with storks:
Visiting a new born is encouraged in the first few weeks when the family has extra help from the kraamzorg – a professional who teaches you how to look after your baby, sorts out the household and gets you all moving forward as a family. Everyone gets this – and they’ve had it for decades. The kraamzorg also deals with visitors and gets rid of them too. I remember explaining to a lady in her 70’s that there was no such service in Britain and she looked horrified at the thought and asked, “How does a new mother know what to do?” Having no children myself I couldn’t answer from experience but I guessed a lot relied on family, or muddled through.
If you do visit a new born here in the Netherlands be prepared to eat a celebratory snack – a dried-out circle of bread (beschuit) with tiny blue or pink aniseed-flavoured sugar balls on top. If you don’t like liquorice/aniseed/salmiac then treat all Dutch celebratory foods with suspicion or you will regret it!
My theme for next week is log-piles – fits in with Yule and the bringing of light and warmth into the house at this time of year.