Kerstmas Decorations

Kerst Kleuren
When we moved here, we left behind the bulk of our possessions (which my parents helped us get rid of. Thank you again!). I left behind most of my Christmas decorations, as well, including the skirt I had made for the tree the year before. I did, however, bring almost all of my Christmas tree decorations, specifically the ones that had personal meaning or that we’ve had since I was a young child. My mother has given me ornaments most years that have something to do with what is going on in my life that year, or that have some sort of meaning behind them. As a result, every time I decorate our Christmas tree, I’ve got a wealth of memories to go with each decoration.

For the past two years that we’ve been here, our tree has been about the only Christmas decoration we’ve had. It’s a small house, so I don’t really miss having a lot of decorations, otherwise it just starts looking cluttered and is bound to tempt the cats into some sort of destruction. Yet I found myself wanting a few more decorations this year. Fortunately, some of the craft/design blogs I follow provided me with some inspiration for my own decorations.

The wonderful How About Orange … inspired me to make these multipoint star decorations. Rather than buy special paper or even use up perfectly good printer paper, I went through the 2010 IKEA catalog and found colorful pages to use. I was going to toss (recycle) the catalog anyway, so it seems appropriate that a decorating catalog should be used for decorations! I’ve made two so far and may well make more. I might do a bigger one to hang in the front window.
Handmade Star Ornament

Another design blog mentioned Scandinavian Christmas decorations, which somehow inspired me to make a garland of sorts out of Sculpy/Femo clay. The original was simple stars, if I remember correctly, but I couldn’t find a star-shaped cookie cutter that I liked, so I went for a mix of snow flakes, trees and shooting stars. With the help of some duct tape and twine, I ended up with a simple little garland to hang on the wall for a small but cute bit of decoration.
Christmas in New York

I’m feeling a bit more holiday cheer this year as I get used to the little differences and find new ways to enjoy the holiday spirit. It didn’t really feel like Christmas to me the first couple of years, because I realized that there were so many social/societal triggers that I responded to, which were primarily American, and thus missing here. It can be as simple as tv movies and specials, or the sound of the Salvation Army bells ringing in the shopping centers. It’s not that the Dutch don’t have their own holiday traditions. They certainly do! They’re just not the ones I grew up with, so they don’t create the same feelings in me. I’m having to learn a new set of stimuli to get myself into the spirit of things. With this my third Christmas here, it’s starting to work. Making these little decorations — and finding the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade online — have helped me feel a bit less bah humbug.
A Personal Favorite
(This was my favorite little spot to decorate in our last house. It was particularly nice at night with the lights glowing softly.)

Freedom of Speech

A year ago today, we loaded up the two cats and dog, our few pieces of luggage, and ourselves and headed off to the airport to begin our new lives here in the Netherlands. That said, tomorrow is our proper one-year anniversary of being here. Today was just the start of the travel.

Overall, I haven’t had a hard time adjusting to life here. I don’t find it drastically different or unusual, although I’ve come to suspect that growing up in a multinational household has played an intrinsic part in how well I’ve settled in here. Well, that and the fact that so many people speak English (although I’ve really been making an effort this week to get back to studying Nederlands).

Most things, if they are different, are easy enough to understand and wrap my head around. However, there is one area where I truly have difficulty in understanding: freedom of speech. Certainly, in the general sense, there is freedom of speech here, don’t get me wrong. It’s more of a fine distinction that I’ve become aware of due to the likely prosecution of Geert Wilders and now a news story I saw today discussing the idea of decriminalizing denial of the Holocaust. Certainly, in theory, I think Holocaust deniers are idiots and hateful idiots as that. I’m also not a fan of Geert Wilders, from what I’ve read of him and his party. I particularly find it offensive to have a politician making some of the awful remarks he has made.

Yet, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of these kinds of idiotic beliefs being criminal offenses. This is an issue where I’m obviously an American. In the US, you’re free to believe what you want, no matter how stupid. There are limits, in that you can’t say something that can directly lead to people being hurt, and if you physically act on these beliefs in a way that will harm someone, you can be criminally charged. Rightly so! It’s the idea of simple statements being criminal that I continue to find difficult to wrap my head around. I understand in theory, but it’s a gut reaction that says it goes too far. Yet, this is the law of this land — and other European countries — and I’ve chosen to live here, so I continue to try to adjust. It’s not something that is likely to ever be an issue to me directly, so it’s not something I truly have to worry about. It is, perhaps, one of my only instances of culture shock so far. Which all things considered, isn’t too bad.