XMAS17 - Traditions continue with Baan family
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Christmas at the Baan house in Walton has changed over the years, but as Monique said, that isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to the holidays.
Monique, who immigrated from Holland in 1980, says that the holidays were very different for her growing up in the Netherlands. However, adopting new traditions in a new country has made for an interesting transition.
As a child, Monique celebrated the feast of Sinterklaas on Dec. 6, which is tied to St. Nicholas. The holiday operates very much like Christmas in North America, where gifts are given on St. Nicholas’ Eve (the evening of Dec. 5). Sinterklaas also looks a lot like Santa Claus, although his wardrobe denotes more of a parochial figure similar to a Cardinal or the Pope in the Catholic Church. He does, however, have the abundant white hair and long beard reminiscent of Santa Claus.
Sinterklaas, in this day and age, is not without his controversy, as he is aided by many “Zwarte Piet”, which is translated to Black Pete. They are said to have come from Spain during the raids of the Moors and are typically depicted with colourful dress and black face, which has made them controversial and incited protests, at times, when Christmas rolls around.
The festivities associated with the holidays begin on the first Saturday after Nov. 11 in Holland, which is when Sinterklaas is said to “arrive” in the country from Spain.
Baan said she remembers taking part in the holiday celebrations in Holland. The night before the holiday, she and her siblings would put out their wooden clogs by the fire. In the morning, she and her siblings would find that Sinterklaas would have visited and filled their shoes either with candy or with coal, depending on how well-behaved they had been over the course of the year.
The festivities don’t end there, however. In Holland, many Christians make sure to attend church on Dec. 26, which is St. Stephen’s Day. However, many people simply celebrate a second day of Christmas, preparing and eating a large meal with their friends and family members.
When Baan came to Canada in 1980, however, she left many of those traditions back in Europe. She met her husband Don here in Canada and they would go on to make a home together in Walton and have three children together. With Monique as the only one with immediate Dutch heritage, many of the traditions of her homeland fell by the wayside.
She says, however, that things were different back then though as well. Now, with how multicultural Canada is, new Canadians are encouraged to maintain traditions from their home countries and make Canada as eclectic of a country as possible. Back then, however, the emphasis was on fitting in and adopting all that Canada had to offer with its own heritage and leaving many aspects of your previous country’s heritage behind.
She has brought some traditions to her Walton home, like putting chocolate letters (a chocolate cut-out of the first letter in the child’s name) in her children’s stockings every year.
In a way, however, the tradition of Sinterklaas has continued with the Baans. They often host a holiday get-together the first week of December (which would be St. Nicholas Day in the Netherlands), but it’s done usually because that’s when everyone in the family can be together and the weather hasn’t become too much of a factor.
In terms of the family’s Canadian Christmas celebrations, weather always plays a factor, as Don has been a Huron East snowplow operator for the last 20 years. So, no matter if it’s Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, if the snow flies, Don may be on the job and unable to join the festivities.
Don being called out to work, however, isn’t the end of the world. Monique says that while Christmas celebrations have had to be put on hold at times, or shifted, they always happen once everyone is together in the same place at the same time.
Baan children, Adam, Ryan and Emma, say they know better than to make their way towards the Christmas tree on Christmas morning if their parents have yet to wake. This was more of a challenge in their younger years, but they know the drill. They’re not allowed there unless their parents get there first.
Monique says the children have always been very patient about gifts on Christmas morning, which makes life easier around the house.
The Baans always attend church on Christmas Eve. For the longest time, they would go to Duff’s United Church in Walton, but when the church was forced into closure, they began changing it up every year, usually in Brussels or Blyth at one of their churches.
On Christmas Day, however, the family stays to themselves and spends time at home, just the five of them.
As far as the Christmas tree is concerned, it is a canvas for quite a history of John Deere ornaments.
What began as a small gift from Don to Monique in the 1990s has grown into a must-have every year and the family’s tree is filled with decades’ worth of ornaments celebrating the farm company. The script has been flipped, however, as the ornament is always a gift for Don every year, building on a tradition that began with Don giving an ornament as a gift.