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Happy Holidays!

Warm thoughts and special wishes

for a bright and happy holiday.....

 

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To celebrate the holiday season, this December we visited Dusseldorf Germany, Paris France, London England, Aachen Germany and our local Brussels Market.   We selected photos for this blog that would show you how they decorate for the holiday in these countries.

 

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The Eiffel Tower is stunning this year - decked in Blue.  Why is it blue?  The EU (European Union) rotates the presidency every 6 months.  France has it from June through December and honored it by lighting up the Eiffel Tower in blue with yellow stars, recalling the EU flag.

 

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The Eiffel tower is 984 feet tall.  Eighty giant projectors on the ground and 100 more on the tower are used to achieve the blue effect.    At dark, the lights twinkle for a few minutes every hour on the hour.

 

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The department stores are all magical in Paris at Christmas.  From the lights on the outside:

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the large tree in the entrance:

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And my very favorite, the store windows.  Absolutely Fabulous!  The characters are animated and most of them move.  The girls with the umbrellas floated and danced all over the window:

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This one was just adorable:

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These two popped up and down from behind the chair:

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In Brussels and Germany they have the outdoor markets in the city centers.  It makes for a beautiful scene with the cathedrals in the background.

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They are set up like little villages with wooden chalets that sell food, drinks, baked goods, and gifts. 

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The smell of the sweet treats put you in the holiday spirit.

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They have lots of delicious food {the reason I can get D to take me to the markets}.  Check out that tongue action while squeezing the mustard.  Serious stuff!

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We also love the Glühwein {in Germany}, in Belgium and France it is called Vin Chaud.  It is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar.   

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The Glühwein is nice when it is so cold outside and you are walking for hours!  Each vendor serves it in a different mug.  If you want, you can keep the mug.  If not, you turn it back in and get 2 euros back.  Enough to buy another drink at the next booth! 

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We were in London for three days.  D got a new coat (shown in this photo) - how Euro is he?

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Not that any of these photo are Christmas-y, but they are so quintessentially British!  We did learn that instead of wishing a Merry Christmas, in Britian they say Happy Christmas.

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Oh yeah, D did find a Christmas beer in London.  He said it was good despite the name {Chistmas pudding beer}.

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We hopped on the tube on Saturday morning and headed out to Horsham to visit our friends Dave an Allison.   We experienced a very British Christmas event-

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Pantomime  (click for more info).  A Pantomime, called Panto by the locals, is a musical comedy performed at Christmas but having nothing to do with Christmas.  They are always based on children's stories.  We saw Peter Pan.  It is a family event and everyone in the audience participates during the entire show.  Yelling out (booing the villain), standing up, singing, it was quite the experience, a lot of fun.    Unfortunately, photos were not allowed. 

Last but not least, the great city we live in.....Brussels. 

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We have a very nice Christmas market with over 250 booths with local hand made items. 

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It has two carousels, an ice skating rink, a light show on the Grande Place, and a very large ferris wheel. 

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And we could not forgot our favorite Brussels Symbol...all decked out for the holidays!

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For those of you who think the blogs are too long.  Thanks for reading this far and we'll see you next year. 

 

For those of you who want just a little more....Here is some info on the history of St Nicolas and how they celebrate the holidays in Belgium.

 

Sinterklaas

 

 

Sinterklaas or St Nicolas comes on 6 December

 

Sinterklaas {photo borrowed} is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus.  Sinterklaas has a long white beard, wears a red bishop's dress and red mitre (bishop's hat), and holds a crosier, a long gold colored staff with a fancy curled top.  Sinterklaas carries a big book with all the children's names in it, which states whether they have been naughty or nice in the past year.

 

Sinterklaas or St Nicolas arrives from Spain on a white horse.  He has a black assistant called Zwarte Piet who comes down your chimney.  On the 5th of December, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the chimney of the coal fired stove or fireplace, with a carrot or some hay in it "for Sinterklaas's horse", and sing a Sinterklaas song.  The next day, they will find candy, speculoos, a delicious spicy biscuit that is often served with coffee {and we can verify that they really are delecious!} or a small present in their shoes the next day, supposedly thrown down the chimney by a Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas himself {guessing this is where our stocking comes from}.

This is also when most Belgian children receive one big present from Sinterklaas (i.e. their parents!).  
For more details click here: Sinterklass

 

In Belgium, the focus is around Christmas Eve. There is a huge family get-together for a traditional evening meal of three or four courses with plenty of wine and champagne.  Rich, expensive foods are often served, such as lobster, caviar and a variety of game {we are going to have goose}.

Belgium remains a strongly catholic country, with many families attending a candlelit midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This is more than just a religious event – it is also a cultural one with midnight services well-known for their magnificent music.

Christmas morning is not traditionally a time for giving presents in Belgium; the day is usually spent quietly with family. The commercial Father Christmas was not known here until a few years ago.  However, intense marketing by shops eager to sell presents three times over in December has meant that many families also give presents from Santa Klaus now.  Although the Father Christmas and Sinterklaas figures are clearly derived from the same tradition, the two figures remain quite separate in Belgium.   Sinterklaas is always dressed in a long bishop’s robe with a mitre on his head, whereas Father Christmas or De Kerstman is the comical, round, ruddy-cheeked fellow we see in books and movies.

We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!