Despite their small size and close proximity to one another, the Low Countries of Belgim, Luxembourg and the Netherlands all have unique holiday traditions. They also share many traditions, such as Saint Nicholas and Boxing Day.
Christmas in the Netherlands
The primary Christmas figure in the Netherlands is Saint Nicholas (also known as Sinter Klass), who arrives by steamer boat on the last Saturday in November, accompanied by his helper, Black Peter. On Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th) children awake to find what Saint Nick and Black Peter have left in their shoes.
Christmas Day is reserved for going to church, with a dinner served around seven in the evening. Music is a strong tradition in many Dutch churches, where groups play for the congregation on Christmas Day. December 26th is referred to as “Second Christmas Day,” and is a time for visiting family.
Christmas in Belgium
Depending on what part of Belgium you live, you may celebrate Christmas much like the Dutch, with Saint Nicholas or like the French, with Nativity scenes and three wise men. In Flanders, elaborate nativity plays are held, while three Wise Men walk through the streets, singing from house to house.
On Christmas Eve there are extensive processions to the local church for midnight mass.
For those Belgian children who welcome Saint Nicholas, they leave out hay and water for his horse or donkey, along with their shoes, which he fills with treats.
Christmas in Luxembourg
Officially a Grand Duchy, Luxembourg blends Dutch, French and German Christmas traditions, creating a unique holiday spirit. The main Christmas figure in Luxembourg is Klees’chen, or Saint Nicholas. On December 5th (the Eve of Saint Nicholas Day) he leaves children presents on plates they leave out for him.
On Christmas Eve in Luxembourg families gather around their Christmas Tree and then go to a Midnight Mass. Either before church or just after, presents are opened. Christmas Day is a day of feasting. Popular Christmas foods in Luxembourg include Buche de Noel (served as ice cream, not a cake), stollen, and black pudding. The day following Christmas, called Boxing Day, is an official holiday and people spend it visiting friends and family.
Originally Published at Suite101.
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