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A Holland Christmas For Expats

Sinterklass on his White Horse


Many of you know that I grew up in Holland during the 1960s. It was an experience that shaped much of my life with respect to habits, interests, and most importantly, travel. It was also an experience I wish every American could have during their lifetime.

So many of us think the world revolves around the United States. Well, it doesn’t. We are fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world, but we share the world with others. Living in a foreign land will open up so many things to the American expat. You will experience different traditions, cultures, and a lot of really, really good food you never would have had otherwise. One of those traditions that might be different for you will be Christmas.

Here comes Sinterklass…

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Going Dutch on Thanksgiving

An American in…Holland?

As an expat growing up in Holland, I was constantly reminded of the role the Dutch played in the American tradition of Thanksgiving—not as direct participants, but as hosts to the English Pilgrims before they emigrated to America. The Pilgrims were religious dissenters of The Reformation who fled England in 1608 and arrived in Amsterdam. A year later, they moved to the South Holland city of Leiden where they lived for the next 12 to 20 years.

Exterior view of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. Photo (2009). Herenld. Wikimedia Commons.

The three primary churches where they worshiped are the Vrouwekerk (in ruins today: the Pilgrims who settled Manhattan worshiped here), Hooglandsekerk, and Pieterskerk.

Today, the American Thanksgiving is celebrated every year at Pieterskerk as a way to celebrate the Dutch assistance given to the Pilgrims. The records at Pieterskerk reflect the births, marriages, and deaths of the pilgrims while living in Leiden. Next to the Hooglandsekerk church stands a medieval building (built in 1365) known as the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum (Beschuitsteeg 9). It is dedicated to the Pilgrims and you can see many original artifacts from the time they lived in Leiden. Read More Going Dutch on Thanksgiving