A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Christmas in Holland is very different from Christmas in Britain, the main difference being the absence of tat and cheese. Over here the houses are rarely decked out in tasteless lights, you don’t often see stuffed Santa’s climbing down chimneys and I have yet to hear corny Christmas songs blared at me in cafes and restaurants.
In Leiden, things are far more civilised. There is a huge illuminated Christmas tree and all the trees along the canals are bedecked with little white lights. But what makes this especially lovely is the reflection of these lights in the canals. That is what makes Christmas magical here.
Outside Einstein café the annual ice rink has been erected over the canal, and old and young alike, some gliding and some stumbling; enjoy the novelty of walking on ice. For me the novelty was at least in part my amazement at the price: six euros including skates for an unlimited period of time!
Another wonderful thing is the gluewine. For those who haven’t heard of it or tried it, it is basically a nicer version of mulled wine and it really is delicious. Around the Christmas period it is sold in all the bars and lots of cafes for around two euros fifty per glass. If you want some at home with friends you can pick up a pretty big bottle from the supermarket for only one euro! Just heat it up in a pan on the hob first and add a slice of orange.
Last year around January/February the temperature dropped so far that the canals froze over for weeks and you could walk or skate for miles down the canals. Walking underneath the canal bridges in Leiden was quite an experience. Last year I didn’t own skates so I didn’t get to join all the Dutch people fearlessly and skilfully skating down to the South and up to the North (one friend told me he skated fourty miles! He did end up with some pretty horrible blisters around his ankles though…) This year I’m hoping for another big freeze so I can purchase skates and redress this atrocity of never having skated on Dutch canals.
So with all this Christmas cheer why wasn’t I feeling Christmassy until just a few days ago? When my family arrived off that Easyjet plane Christmas hit me in the face like Santa’s sack of pressies going at fifty miles per hour.
So after my transformation from Scrooge to the Ghost of Christmas Present with my feast of plenty and cornucopia of gifts, Merry Christmas Everyone!