Our first Christmas in Holland was quite unique. We began the day with a church service of caroling and reading the Christmas story from the bible. Even though it was a Saturday, people here go to church on Christmas..... That seems appropriate considering whose birth we celebrate.
Following church we returned to our apartment for a short while, then picked up the sister missionaries and went to the van Wermeskerkens (and I thought my name was long) who are members in the Dordrecht Branch. Their home was beautifully decorated and this lovely tree met us as we came into the house.
Sister van Wermeskerken is a lovely, Dutch lady who is currently the public affairs director for the Western European area. She is an organizer! Everything was so beautifully prepared and dinner was a real treat. I had never seen little individual cooking appliances like she had on the table. Each guest had his or her own pan to cook whatever meat and vegetables he or she desired. We could choose between beef, chicken, and shrimp with mushrooms, onions, peppers, pineapple, etc. to add to the mix. What a delightful way to choose your own menu!
On the right are Elder and Sister Anderson, who are the Senior Couple for the Rotterdam Center for Young Adults. All the "senior" guests sat at this table, and the young elders and sisters were seated at the one in the back.
Sister Garvin is pouring some kind of sauce into her creation. Each guest could flavor their food with cream, curry, seafood cocktail sauce, or whatever they wished. It was delicious! I especially liked the shrimp with pineapples, but also enjoyed chicken chunks with green peppers and mushrooms and pineapple. Mmmmm...
It was fun to see the young elders and sisters enjoying each other's company and having such a fun time. I'm sure they're homesick this time of year. They all got to call home today, however, and they look forward to that for months. We have only been here 2 weeks today, so even though we miss our family, it isn't as hard for us as for some of them who have been here much longer.
On Sunday, December 26th we went to church in the morning and then we drove up to Mordrech, which is a bedroom community of Rotterdam. We had been invited, along with the Andersons, to dinner at President de Jonge's, who is the Stake President of the Rotterdam Stake. The first thing we did after arriving was to walk up to a live nativity that was being held at the Catholic Church just a few blocks from his home. This sign says "Live Nativity" 1st and 2nd Christmas Day. In Holland the 1st Christmas Day (December 25th) is followed by a 2nd Christmas Day or Boxer Day (December 26th), which is also celebrated with friends and family.
President de Jonge has four boys, ages 2, 4, 7, and 8. They rode three-deep on a sleigh that President de Jonge pulled. The snow has melted on the streets but is still packed on the sidewalks. The two year old wanted to help his papa pull the other boys on their sleigh instead of riding the whole way on the little red one in back.
When we arrived at the nativity site we found Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in a small shed behind the church. I thought it was fun to see baby Jesus sucking on a binky! I didn't know they had them back then.
The animals were 'live' also, with this mother ewe showing off her brand new offspring from the day before. The boys especially enjoyed the animals.
The donkey on which they made the journey to Bethlehem was in the stall next to the sheep. He was tired after his long trip, but he posed for this photo just for me.
Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus
On the way back to the house David couldn't resist taking advantage of this short hill for a solo sleigh ride. We returned to the house and enjoyed a feast prepared by Sister de Jonge, who was born in Centerville, Utah. She was a delight to visit with because she had all the scoop on where to find various ingredients for our American recipes here in Holland. She gave Sister Anderson and I lots of tips on where to shop, what to look for, and how to alter our recipes so that they work with the coarser flour that is available here. We enjoyed a delicious ham dinner with sweet potato casserole, salad, homemade rolls, and pumpkin and coconut cream pie for dessert. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.