This morning I was feeling all pleased with myself because I’m doing so amazingly well at not spending money. Then I looked at the calendar and realised it’s only the sixth of February. Oh. There’s still a long road ahead of me. A really long road, if the first (not quite) week of the month is anything to go by… Does anyone else feel like it’s been February forever? No? Just me?
Yesterday I spent money. I know. I know. But my mother had invited the troops and I over for a BBQ lunch, and she was shouting (lunch, I mean, not yelling at me), and then she messaged me to ask could I possibly break my Frugal February plans and pick up some “nice fresh bread for lunch”. What was I going to do? Say no?
We stopped at the bakery and I exchanged seven dollars and forty cents for two loaves of Nice Fresh Bread.
I miss that seven dollars. Hell, I even miss the forty cents. That is money I will never get back.
I kind of did get the money back though, because all my ranting about minimalism and consumerism obviously affected my husband in some way. Today he cleaned out his top drawer. Do you know how long it’s been since he cleaned out his top drawer? Well, to be honest I can’t actually say. But what I can say is that he found a Christmas card we received when I was pregnant with the kid who turns four next month. And that Christmas card contained Three Hundred Dollars.
He found another fifty dollars floating around in the drawer too. So that means that we are now up $342.60, which is great. But, you know, it could’ve been $350…
In other news, my tight ‘n’ light grocery shop doesn’t look like it’ll be enough to sustain us for the week. We’re out of Weetbix (okay fine, Homebrand Wheat Biscuits). And bananas. And I estimate we only have one cup of oats left to go. Looks like breakfast will be toast for six for the next few days. Hmm, I guess that Nice Fresh Bread will come in handy after all.
– Fern xxx
Thankfully we won’t be running out of lunch foods any time soon. I have been a very good girl this weekend, planning and baking for the week ahead. Somebody give me a medal!
(Oh, and then strip me of that medal because there is a freaking TYPO in this video. I can’t even handle it. I didn’t see it until it was uploaded. Wah!)
Something is happening to me. My month of no spending, my efforts to reconsider my relationship with money, spending, shopping, are stirring things up inside me. There is a fire in my belly. I am ready to change.
After watching that documentary on minimalist living the other night, I searched through all the other docos Netflix has to offer, and added a bunch of them to my watchlist. “Fast fashion” had been mentioned in Minimalism, and I wanted to learn more about it.
I stumbled upon The True Cost, and decided that’d be my entertainment for the evening. And oh, it made me feel sick.
I was wearing a Kmart nightie. My favourite nightie. It’s black and falls to my knees. It’s comfy yet cute, with lace detailing and a faux cross-over at the bust. It makes my boobs look nice, and it makes my boobs easily accessible (for the baby, I mean). It cost me $18, or maybe it was $15? Either way, that nightie ticked all the boxes for me. It was cheap. I love cheap. Cheap is good, right?
I don’t want to sit here and write out all the things I learned last night, because it’ll be better, more confronting, if you just watch the documentary for yourself. But because I know a lot of you won’t, let me just say this: A real human being, with real thoughts, real feelings, a real life, made the clothes you are wearing right now. They pieced it together, sewed it into life, and – if it was cheap – it’s likely they were barely compensated.
Clothes are polluting our planet. Your discarded items are releasing toxins into the earth as they waste away (or not) in landfills. The factories in which our “bargains” are created are spewing filth into rivers, oceans, skies. You may have paid just $4 for your T-shirt, but what is the true cost? What the f*ck are we doing?
I am full of a sort of jittery, gotta-do-something energy today. I feel powerless yet powerful. I have the means to change. The love I felt for Kmart just five days ago is fading. My flame of passion is dying out. I do not need things to be happy. I do not want a wardrobe full of clothing that could have cost a mother her life. Something’s got to give.
Something has got to give.
– Fern xxx
It feels trivial now, but I uploaded this video to share the foods I bought to fuel my family for a week, spending $50 less than I usually would. If you’re after a more light-hearted watch, then maybe this’ll appeal…
Okay, so I can hardly claim to be living a frugal life when I’ve been at this thing for two days, but I’m pretty sure there’s a saying out there that suggests it’s good to start out the way you intend to be. Or do. Or something. I’m too lazy to google it, and anyway, I don’t really like quotes.
To contradict myself, I would now like to share a quote that comes from Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (it’s on Netflix, you should watch it).
Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.
I know. Deep. But it’s true, don’t you think? We should spend more time loving each other, truly being with each other, than looking out for things, stuff, that we think will make us “happy”. I mean, how exactly will a new candle, or an expensive bottle of perfume, or a 10th over-sized coffee mug impact our lives in the long run? After the thrill of the new has worn off, is that purchase going to become a treasured memory? Or is that item going to become just one more thing you need to dust…
I’ve been looking at my house differently today. Even after 100 days of Sh*t Sorting towards the end of 2016, I can still see junk everywhere. Thanks to Christmas (and my overwhelming urge to Buy All The Things in the lead up to the holidays) we’ve added new junk to the old junk. To my left is a window through which I can see our back yard, and it’s a mess. A jumble of faded plastic contraptions my kids have been programmed to believe they need. To my right is a drawer in which there are two phone covers, neither of which have been removed from their original packaging. I bought them because I had a new phone. I bought them because they were cheap. But all I’ve ended up with is unnecessary clutter and $11 less in my bank account. Wasted money is not a bargain.
It’s not easy to change overnight. In fact, I can honestly say I haven’t really changed at all, because this morning I ran into a friend who mentioned that perhaps she’ll go out on the town to celebrate her birthday this weekend. Immediately I said I would come. Music! Drinks! Fun! But that all equals money, and I’m not supposed to be spending money. And then I came home and tinted my own eyebrows so I wouldn’t have to pay someone to do it for me. But as soon as I looked in the mirror I thought, Oh I’ll have to go and get them threaded now.
For whatever reason, Go and spend money (even when I’m actively working towards not spending money), seems to be my first reaction to everything.
Being the first week back at school, my daughters are all fired up about their new stationary, and how cool everyone else’s books look. They want me to cover their books. They want me to take them to the shops so we can pick out rolls of sticky plastic to spread over the cardboard jackets of their exercise books, because everyone reckons this will help protect their work. But will it? What difference will it make? I could spend the money, buy the junk, waste hours attempting to apply it smoothly… How much enjoyment would my children actually take from it? How long would the thrill truly last?
I’ve told the kids about Frugal February, about our attempts to spend less, save more, be content with our lot. And they’re okay with it. If you want decorated books, I told them, just find some pictures you like and I’ll help you paste them onto the covers. They seemed happy with that. They are happy with that. Children, it would seem, really understand that money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness.
– Fern xxx
Another great way to save money is to prepare your own foods rather than buying pre-packaged stuff as much as possible. Check out this video for a few tasty, cost-effective lunch ideas.
The weird thing about life is the way we spend so much time looking forward to things. We wait and wait for a particular day, and then the day comes, and then, often, it’s just like, Oh.
Take today, for example. I sent my kids to school for the first time this year. All holidays long I was all, I can’t wait for these children to be out of my house. And now, as I type, those children are out of my house. Am I making the most of it? Nope. I’m just kind of drifting around, wondering what to do with myself. I even made a pot of soup, for god’s sake, and it’s the hottest month of the year. Why was I so excited about this?
Because I’m tired of getting excited for no reason, I’ve decided to take a step in another direction. Yes, from now on I’m going to actively work towards things that I’m not excited about. Okay, not things. Just thing. A thing. One. But it’s a big thing. In fact, it’s a Very Big Thing. It’s such an incredibly Big Thing that I think you might want to sit down for this…
I’m breaking up with Kmart.
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past year, I’m basically the Kmart Queen. My YouTube channel is full of Kmart hauls. My drawers are full of Kmart clothes. And you know all those Kmart memes your friends tag you in on Facebook? Yeah, I get tagged in those almost daily. For months and months and months now, shopping at Kmart has been what I do. And I’m not saying I don’t want to do it anymore, but I am starting to think that maybe, just maybe, all those bargains haven’t been serving me quite the way I’d imagined.
Let’s talk about the clothes I mentioned, for a start. The assorted items I picked up and chucked in my trolley because they looked cute on the hanger; because the price tag had a yellow reduced to clear sticker on it. I packed those items myself, stuffed them into a plastic bag along with the 15 other things that I just had to have, and brought them home. Then, after showing them off to my camera, they went back into the plastic bag. Eventually I’d find time to stuff them into a drawer. And then, weeks later, I’d finally get around to trying the items on.
I don’t even want to admit how many pieces of my Kmart chic collection ended up being rejected after the first wear. They didn’t fit right or they didn’t look right or they didn’t feel right, and I’d say to myself, Oh well, it was so cheap, it doesn’t really matter. But when you’re buying a lot of cheap things they end up being expensive things. And when I add on all the Kmart clothes that shrunk in the wash (seriously, 50% of all my Kmart purchases have shrunk in the wash) I actually start to feel a bit sick at how much money I have wasted on clothes I do not wear.
Of course, it’s not just the clothes. It’s the homeware I didn’t need, the toys the kids don’t play with, the craft supplies I still haven’t taken out of the packet… It’s the fact that I’ve been fooling myself into thinking I can shop my way to happiness. I am just another consumer. Even with a boot load of shopping bags I’m not going to be satisfied.
This morning, soon after I got home and realised that an empty house is not quite as enjoyable as I’d anticipated, I logged into my online bank account and worked out how much money I spent unnecessarily in February of 2016. After I got over the shock (my god it was a lot of dollars), I looked at the total figure scribbled on my notepad and thought to myself, No. You will not do that again.
So here I am, on the eve of the first of February, vowing to not spend any money that doesn’t need to be spent for an entire month. I mean, I’ll still be purchasing chickens, because we decided months ago we were definitely going through with the backyard chooks thing, but aside from that? Nothing. No coffees out in town. No impulse buys for the kids. No takeaways on a Friday night. And, depending on how it goes, I might just keep going with the No Spending in March.
My husband and I are lucky. We don’t have debt (aside from a mortgage, and a student loan I racked up while I floundered around trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life), and we don’t have credit cards. We can afford the things we need (and we can afford a lot of things we don’t need too), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to save more money. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about where our money is going. What it does mean is that we are in a position to build the life we want for our family. It’s just going to take a bit of work.
Tomorrow morning my family will wake up to find that Frugal February has begun. It means I won’t be able to take the kids out to the tramp park, but I can always take them to the playground. Or the beach. Or the library. And I reckon that’s enough. I mean, okay, I’m not particularly looking forward to the month ahead, but I am excited about what this change in lifestyle (even if it is only for a few weeks) may bring. Oh wait. No. I’m not going to get excited. Dammit! Why am I such an excitable person? It only leads to disappointment.
– Fern xxx
My Kmart hauls have always been popular, but they have got to stop! If only it was as much fun to talk about the things I haven’t bought…
I’m really good at thinking, but not so good at doing. Take this week, for example. I had many thoughts full of many ideas about really good blog posts. And did I write the blog posts? No. I did not. It would be easy to blame the school holidays on my inability to just sit down and do the things I tell myself I will do, but the truth is that even if the kids were at school I probably wouldn’t have written the things I could have written. I am quite lazy, you see. And also I’ve got my YouTube channel, which seems to be a lot easier than blogging for some reason. Maybe because speaking is more forgiving than writing. But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about, so I will move on.
Because I am happy to both accept and admit that I am lazy, I am also happy to indulge my laziness. And so, I’m just going to bullet point some of the thoughts I had; some of the blog posts that could have been, if you will. This way I get to feel like I did blog the thoughts, and you, whoever you are, gets a small taste of what you’re missing out on (or not, as the case may be). So. Here we go.
I got my sister-in-law a copy of Yes Please by Amy Poehler for Christmas, because I was certain she would like it. She did like it, I discovered on Christmas eve, when I saw that exact book tucked into her suitcase. Crap. So, the new Yes Please went back to The Warehouse and was exchanged for something else, and the old Yes Please was passed on to me so I could read it, because yes, my sister (in law) had already finished reading it in its entirety.
I haven’t made it past the preface, so I probably shouldn’t even be talking about the book yet, but I’ve got to say I found it all ridiculously inspiring. I’m not sure why, exactly, but Ms. Poehler was talking about how writing is really hard, and how it feels damn near impossible to make time to pen an entire book in between raising kids and working and generally being awesome. And somewhere in amongst all that my brain was all, Oh my god, Amy Poehler is just a person.
Now you might be reading that and rolling your eyes and thinking, Well, duh, but I’m pretty sure that most of us view celebrities as some sort of super-human subspecies. And it just started to occur to me that that is so not the case. All these people we look up to, whose work we watch and read and consume, are just like you and me. They’re really not that special. And I dunno, I just got to thinking that if a little girl called Amy could grow up to be a celebrated comedienne called Amy Poehler, then who’s to say that a little girl called Anita can’t grow up to be a kick-ass woman called Fern who is celebrated for her talents too?
I mean, sure, it’s likely my imagination kind of ran away with me a bit, that happens to me quite a lot, but I’m beginning to feel like there’s nothing stopping me from achieving the things I want to achieve.
2017 could be my year…
I’ve been getting really grumpy with my kids, and it’s not that they’re being extra annoying, it’s that I’m being extra impatient. This is one of those things that makes you feel a bit shitty about yourself, because the thought that you are the problem is a hard pill to swallow (cliche, don’t care), but whatever. Sometimes you just have to accept that you suck and then figure out a way to stop sucking so much.
My way to suck less is to start my day with a slight attitude adjustment (please believe that I’m not trying to tell you how to suck less, this is just something I’m trying to do – I will probably forget all about this within a week). Instead of waking up and being all, Ugh my kids are so freaking annoying, why are they so loud, why are they so whiney, why do they want me to pay them attention when it’s only six thirty in the morning, I try to wake up being all, Wow, the kids seem pretty needy today, I better get up and help them get their breakfast, after all, I get super hangry about everything when I go too long without eating… It all sounds a wee bit lame, I know, but it does seem to make a difference. Oh, and turning on Netflix and dozing while the kids snuggle beside you and watch a shitty cartoon for half an hour or so helps too. May as well make the most of the school holidays, right?
We’ve been spending a crap ton of money lately and it’s really got to stop. First there was Christmas, and then there were general school holiday expenses, and now there is me sitting on my computer looking at all the emails that get sent to my spammy hotmail account advertising unmissable sales and unbeatable deals on pizza delivery.
I’ve started thinking that I should attempt some sort of Frugal February thing (is that a thing? I feel like it should be a thing). Like maybe I should try and not spend any money outside of the essential living costs? Maybe I should try really hard to spend less on groceries each week, to stop buying takeaways all the time (Burger Fuel, I’m looking at you), to stick to regular blocks of cheese instead of treating myself to two or three rounds of camembert each week…
I’m going to have to think about this one a little more, because I think we all know that I really do love to shop; I really do love to spend money. But I’m kind of realising that spending money doesn’t actually make me any happier, and as much as I fight it, my Dutch in-laws could teach me a lot about managing money and being content with what we’ve got.
Not spending money is pretty boring though.
So yes, that’s about it really. I mean, it’s not, but that’s all I can be bothered writing, and the kids are asking about lunch, and there’s only so many times I can say, Yes, I’ll get it for you soon, I’m just working at the moment, before they completely lose the plot.
If any of those things sound like any of the things that you think about then let me know. And if you want to join me in attempting to be frugal in February then flick me a message, because I kind of reckon it could be sorta fun if I have someone to hold my hand through my month of cheap(ish) living.
In the mean time, you can watch this video about my plans – not goals – for 2017. None of it actually ties in with this blog post, but it does tie in with the theme of random and somewhat jumbled thoughts, so I feel like it works.
If you were to ask me how I was feeling today I’d have to answer with, Not great. It feels kind of weird sharing that, because no one has actually asked me, but whatever. I’m putting it out there. Sometimes it feels good to admit that life is a wee bit shitty sometimes.
I’ve been in a funk all day. Grumpy and irritable. Impatient with the kids. Wanting to hole myself up in my office and work on things, but instead just sitting hunched over my desk, my neck strained, staring at my computer screen blankly.
I ended up unfollowing people on social media, which is a bad sign. I only do that when I’m feeling truly down on myself. I sign into Instagram and I look at the photos posted by the women I am not and I think, I am ugly. I am small. I cannot do what they do. And it hurts. And when it hurts too much, I unfollow. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. I doubt that you will miss me.
A couple of things have come to a head this weekend, which have led to my not so great day. Yesterday an old friend made contact with me, and it’s kind of put me in a spin. It’s weird because reconnecting was really rather lovely. But the truth is I’ve been avoiding her for a while now, telling myself that the past is the past, that I need to leave things, all the things, behind me.
Despite my attempts to stay out of touch, we chatted a bit and we’ve both come so far. Finally. We are in good places. We have moved on. And now I’m realising that trying to ignore my past, pretending like I didn’t think about the person I was and the people I loved Every Single Day, convincing myself that reconnecting with those people would be taking a step backwards, was not exactly a healthy way to live. I mean, she was my absolute best friend for practically my entire life. And without knowing what she had become, I managed to convince myself that any contact with her would be Bad. And that gave me anxiety. That made me feel scared.
Really, things are good now. They’re better for having spoken with her. And yet I feel terrible. It’s dumb, I know, but who wants to learn they’ve been believing things they never should’ve believed?
The other thing is just the whole blogging, vlogging, content creating thing in general. I’ve been working really hard, you see, on establishing a community that I honestly reckon could be a truly amazing thing. I’ve been building a website, and setting up social media accounts, and trying to get people excited about it all. And while I’ve been doing that I’ve also been promising myself that this year I’ll share myself even more authentically in all my content, because authenticity rocks and so do I.
But today I don’t feel like I rock. Today I feel like I suck. I shared things I was passionate about on my YouTube channel and people unsubscribed. I shared my ideas with my community and the response was underwhelming. I scrolled through my Facebook and Twitter feeds and I read post after post made by blogger after blogger and I thought, Well who am I..?
Who am I?
So I’m struggling a bit. Just for today. Or just for this week. Or just for this month. As always, time will tell. But I dunno, I just wanted you to know that. I wanted to be real. Because I really am trying here. I’m trying my absolute best. And I feel inadequate and I feel pathetic, but I still feel like I have something to offer. I know I have a voice. Today my voice is weak, but maybe tomorrow I will sing. Maybe next week I will roar. So I’ll keep on working, and I’ll keep on trying, and I’ll keep on being me. But if you’re here, if you’re reading these words, perhaps you could let me know?
I am small today. I feel I am a child. I am learning as I go.
– Fern xxx
I embedded this in my last blog post, I know. But it’s relevant to the thoughts I’ve just shared, so I figured I’d chuck it in anyway. A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it…
Okay, so here’s the truth: I keep thinking Bad Thoughts about blogging. All blogging. There’s a grumpy old cow in the back of my mind, you see, and she’s forever saying things like, There are already a million bloggers. It’s all been said before. Nothing is original anymore. You have nothing worth writing about.
It’s kind of weird that she very rarely says that sort of thing when I think about my YouTube channel. Maybe she just thinks YouTube is where it’s at. And I mean, yeah, that’s cool. I feel like I’m doing pretty well in the vlogging side of the internet. But the thing is I’ve always wanted to write. And I still want to write. So I actually feel like I need to bloody write, goddammit.
So here we are.
I’m mainly blogging because it’s a new year. I hate that I’m blogging because it’s a new year, because I hate the way everyone starts going on and on about their goals and detoxing and how they’re going to become better people. I mean, I actually quite like myself these days. And yeah, there are plenty of things I could do better, but I don’t want my only motivation to be a new date. Well, shit in one hand, want in the other, I guess, because it looks like the new date is exactly what has motivated me to finally dust off my keyboard. Once again, I’m a walking oxymoron (please don’t emphasise the moron).
To appease the grumpy old anti-blogging cow, I’m not going to write out my goals here for you all to read. Nor will I list all the things I learned in 2016 (though you can check out the embedded YouTube video if you want to hear about some of the mistakes I made – eep). But I am willing to share that I’ve got a few ideas floating around in my head that I’d like to make a reality this year. And if I can make at least some of it happen, if I can extend myself just a little, then I think I’ll be feeling pretty pleased with myself by this time next year.
What I’m not so sure about, however, is the direction in which I want to take this blog. Do I want it to be all the mum things all the time? Definitely not. Do I want to write open letters and vaguely humourous (i.e. not actually funny) lists all the time? Shit no. But I do want to make sure I’m writing things that you genuinely want to read. And there are a hell of a lot of incredibly popular blogs out there that seem to write only those things I don’t want to write… So what’s a blogger to do? Do I pretend to be someone, or something, I’m not in the hopes that people will start eating up every word I type? Or do I do my own thing and accept that I’ll probably just float around making little to no difference in anyone’s life?
There’s this whole thing in the blogging world about having a brand, even being a brand. And if I had to give myself a brand it’d just be Fern. Me. A woman with a lot of kids and a little time and a desire to share things about her life in an entertaining sort of way. Which I’m beginning to suspect isn’t really a brand at all.
Ah well. The grumpy cow is telling me to just forget about it, so I suppose I will. For now. In the meantime, feel free to give me a kick up the butt if you realise I haven’t written anything in a while. And hey, if you’re keen to share with me the sorts of things you’d be interested in reading about then leave me a comment down below. Drew Monson isn’t the only one who’s very lonely…
Every Friday my friend Lisa of Lisasaurus, writes a Friday Favourites post. Some weeks there’s only one favourite. Some weeks there’s a full on list. And though I often link up to the Friday Favourites party, I have yet to bother writing an actual Friday Favourites post of my own.
This evening I decided I needed to share some favourites with you. The truth is that I’ve had a sad couple of months; I lost my grandad right at the end of September, and just this week I lost my grandma too. Grandma and Grandad were some of my all-time favourite people. They were smart and kind and caring. They were loyal and honest and hard-working. They were delightful and devoted and dedicated. And so, in honour of them, here are A Few Of My Favourite Things…
I was one of those weirdos who spent years telling themselves that family is the worst. Thank the universe I got over that, because family is the best. The best. When I had to head away for Grandad’s funeral I remember feeling sick, because I just knew it was going to be awful. But it actually wasn’t awful at all. It was wonderful. It was an opportunity to get together with family and to really be with them. To talk and laugh and share. I felt so uplifted when I got home from Grandad’s funeral. I felt so accepted. And when I heard that Grandma had passed I found it so much easier to process my feelings, because I knew that I would get to be with my family again. I am grateful for my people.
December is by far my most favourite month of the year. I love that end of year rush. I love the warmer weather. And I love all things Christmas. Every December I push myself to the extreme, working harder than I do any other month of the year. I do more with my kids. I make more with my hands. I create more, write more, film more… And I eat and drink and, ultimately, weigh a lot more too. In December I am Fern and Mum, I am blogger and vlogger, I am Sinterklaas and Santa Claus. And this year I’m three magical elves too. I’m having so much fun I could explode.
I joined in with #Vlogstars again this month, to answer a whole bunch of Christmassy questions, some of which are Favourites related. I was very excited when I filmed it, so my energy levels were at an all time high.
Yes, I really am that enthusiastic about Christmas.
I’m all about that pizza life. We eat pizza once a week. At least. I often make them myself (using supermarket-bought bases, because it’s just so much easier), but I’m also a Big Fan of ordering pizza online and getting it delivered to our door. I boycott Dominos these days (it’s a long story), so usually we go for Pizza Hut. It’s just so cheap, you see. This evening, however, I decided to pretend like we were rich and I ordered Hell. Hell yeah, Hell is the sh*t. I ordered myself a double cursed pizza, and a side of corn nuggets and it was everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I ate it while watching Christmas movies, which is, funnily enough, one of my favourite things to do at this time of year. I am very full now. Very.
I can’t even be bothered writing a paragraph about Netflix because there is no way I need to explain this one to you, right? It’s Netflix. The really easy, really affordable, really legal way to watch all the things you could ever feel like watching. And anything you see that you think you might possibly, maybe, someday feel like watching can just be added to your own personal I Might Watch That Later list. My list is mostly comprised of Christmas movies, and documentaries, and films so dark that you think about them all day every day for at least two weeks after the movie ends. It’s pretty awesome.
You know you’re moving up in the world when you start taking part in blogging collaborations…
This December I’m joining in with The 12 Days of Christmas, a blog collab. by 13 women who fit into the “Kiwi Mummy Bloggers” category (but please don’t call me a Mummy Blogger).
The 12 Days of Christmas: Day Six Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas (and why my kids are visited by them both)
My kids are Kiwi Kids. There’s no denying it. They run around in barefeet, they eat Weetbix for breakfast, and they end a lot of their sentences with, “Eh, Mum?”
But my kids are also Dutch Kids. It’s not easy to spot, but it’s in them. Their dad was born in The Netherlands, they call their paternal grandparents Oma and Opa, and you can practically see their ears prick up everytime they hear the word, “Holland.”
I don’t feel like I’m doing enough to teach them about their roots, to be honest (not that I feel like it’s really my place to anyway – I’ve never even stepped foot outside of New Zealand). But I do try to talk about their heritage as and when I can. And so, when I learned a few years back about some old guy called Sinterklaas who brings presents to Dutch children in early December, I knew I had to adopt the tradition for my own kids.
Sinterklaas has made annual visits to our house since 2011. But who is he?
I referred to him in this (old and incredibly embarrassing) YouTube video as “the Dutch Santa”, but apparently that’s not quite right. A Dutch viewer left me the following comment:
It’s funny, Sinterklaas is not the Dutch Santa. Santa is the American Sinterklaas. When New York was still New Amsterdam, the Dutch people that lived there celebrated Sinterklaas in the US. Other people took over that holiday and over the years that turned into Santa Claus with his own story.
So then I felt bad, because it seemed people thought my description meant that Santa existed first and the Dutch people copied them. But then I thought, Actually, I’m going to keep saying that. Because it’s the easiest way to get non-Dutch people to understand what the hell you’re on about when you mention Sinterklaas. I mean, call me lazy, but if there’s an easy way to make people understand me, then I’m taking that path. You know?
Whoever came first (not that I should say whoever, because it was definitely Sinterklaas, I fact-checked), there’s no denying that Sinter and Santa have a lot in common. And feel free to call me crazy, but I just thought it’d be kind of fun to compare them. So here we go.
Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas
Santa: A random old dude who lives in the North Pole year-round. Sinterklaas: An actual saint who lives in Spain, but travels to the Netherlands by steamboat in mid-November, where he stays until December 6 (his arrival is a big deal; his departure not so much).
Santa: Relies heavily on his special helpers, the elves. Sinterklaas: Relies heavily on his special helper, Zwarte Piet (AKA Black Pete, AKA The Guy I Don’t Mention To My Kids Because Black Face Is Never Okay)
Santa: Leaves gifts in children’s stockings on the eve of the 24th of December. Sinterklaas: May leave small treats in children’s shoes (or clogs) on any night from the time he arrives in the Netherlands, while bigger gifts are delivered on the eve of the 5th of December.
Santa: Rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Sinterklaas: Rides a white horse named Amerigo.
Santa: Has a long white beard, a big, round belly, and wears a thick red suit with matching hat. Sinterklaas: Has a long white beard, an unremarkable belly, and wears a saintly red robe and an equally saintly red hat.
Santa: Does his own dirty work (i.e. he climbs down the chimneys himself). Sinterklaas: Employs others to do his dirty work (i.e. he sends Zwarte Piet down the chimneys – a lot of Dutch people will argue that this is what makes Black Pete black; I stand by my Black Face = Not Okay Ever stance).
Santa: Children leave him cookies and milk, and sometimes something tasty for his reindeer. Sinterklaas: Children leave his horse carrots and hay, and sometimes something tasty for the Saint himself.
Santa: Keeps track of whether children have been naughty or nice by writing their names in lists. Sinterklaas: Keeps track of whether children have been naughty or nice by writing their names in “The Book of Sinterklaas”.
Santa: If children are naughty he will leave a lump of coal in their stockings. Sinterklaas: If children are naughty he will tell Zwarte Piet to put them in a sack and take them back to Spain (OMG, that’s worse than the Black Face thing).
So why do my kids get both?
Like I mentioned at the start of this post, I just want my kids to grow up with at least some idea of what it means to be a Dutch kid. It’s highly likely that I’m getting it all wrong, or that I’m placing emphasis on the things that don’t really matter, but I’m all about making Christmas as fun and magical as possible. And if I can get away with doubling up on Santa just because I happened to marry a Dutchman, then hell yeah I’m gonna double up on Santa. Why wouldn’t you?
I do have to admit, however, that I’ve never made much of an effort to get them to believe in Sinterklaas. I actually reckon they’d all forget about him if I didn’t mention it. But my kids are so willing to believe in things, so ready to accept magic, so eager to receive presents, that I’m going to keep going with it: At the start of December they get a little something from Sinterklaas. At the end of December they get quite a few somethings from Santa Claus. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s an excuse to squeeze as much Christmas out of Christmas as possible.
Every year I wait for my kids to start questioning why they get Sinterklaas and Santa Claus; for them to figure out that there are just too many similarities between the two dudes for any of it to actually be real. But so far my kids haven’t expressed any doubt as to the existence of either of their Santas, and I’m happy to keep it that way. My eldest is eight and a half. There’s a good chance she’ll be a non-believer this time next year. I’m more than willing to allow her to hold onto the magic of Christmas while she can…
Last night, on the 5th of December, my kids made gingerbread for Sinterklaas, and left carrots in their shoes for Amerigo.
This morning, on St. Nicholas’ Day, they woke up to find someone had crept down the chimney to fill their footwear with surprises and treats. And just as they believe in magic, I believe that it’s moments like these that will stick with them forever. If nothing else, they’ll always be able to boast that they were the kids who were visited every year by not one, but two Santas. It doesn’t get much better than that.
– Fern xxx
Want to see all the Dutch Christmas magic unfold?
Tonight’s “Vlogmas” video is dedicated to Sinterklaasavond… It’s worth a watch!
Tomorrow’s 12 Days of Christmas blog post will go live at 12pm over at dorothynada.com
If you like the sound of Christmas in a Jar then make sure you head over to Dorothy Nada so you can read all about it.
I’ll also be sharing the link to that on my Facebook page, so why not go and give that a Like now?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a seamstress I am not. But, it’s Christmastime. And Christmastime makes me want to make things.Like advent calendars. Remember? I made three of them this year. Three. And because they actually turned out kinda, sorta okayish, I felt inspired to make more Christmassy things. And so: Stockings.
Usually we do santa sacks, but we’re having my brother-in-law and his family over for Christmas this year (I AM SO EXCITED), and their kids do stockings. It’s a good thing too, because to be honest we really don’t need Santa bringing sack loads of gifts for the kids. I have just dedicated 100 days of my life to decluttering and clearing sh*t out after all…
Because we don’t own enough stockings to go around (welcome to life with four kids), and because I already had Christmas fabric in my possession, and because I now feel like I shouldn’t buy things unnecessarily, I decided I’d try and sew my own stockings. We’re big on elves around here, so I went with an elfy sort of theme. I mean, who would want a boot shaped stocking when you could have an elf shoe shaped stocking, right?
If you watch the video you’ll see what I came up with, and how you can have a go at making something similar yourself. If you’d rather just get the gist of what I’m going on about, then there’s no need to watch. Just look at that thumbnail. That’s all you need to see.
What Santa traditions do you have in your house? Do you hang stockings, or put out sacks? Do you leave the old man snacks? I wanna hear about it in the comments section, okay? Because Christmas is more than just one day…