I have been researching Dutch traditions, culture, and foods. This one caught my attention. It is very timely, given that Sunday is Palm Sunday.
In parts of the Netherlands, children would build a Palmpasentok. They paraded with them, then gifted them to the elderly.
The cross represents the Crucifixion. The green and yellow streamers; spring, the season of renewal and new life. The green twig, resurrection. The bread rooster, the rooster that crowed three times when Peter denied Jesus. The bread, symbolizes the Body of Christ shared at the Last Supper.
The twelve chocolates, the twelve disciples. The thirty raisins refer to the thirty pieces of silver, paid to Judas who betrayed Jesus.
If this was a tradition in the area of Holland where my parents grew up, they did not, to my recollection, continue the tradition in Canada.
Personally, I love this tradition and plan to bring it anew.
I remember when, as a child, Sinterklaas would drop by every year on December 5th. In the weeks prior to this date, we would excitedly watch the windows for Peek-a-boo. Peek-a-poo, the mysterious little elf who spied on us children, deciding who was naughty and who was nice. I’m thinking that maybe our little Peek-a-boo was the precursor to today’s Elf on the Shelf.
Somewhere along the line, our December 5th tradition ended and Santa Claus began showing up at our home on Christmas Day.
Earlier this fall, my daughter found an article about another Dutch tradition; the Chocolate Letter. The Chocolate Letter, available in dark, milk, and white chocolate.
I remember Sinterklaas leaving unwrapped gifts. A small pile for each child, topped with a bowl of candies containing the name of the child. Later, the slip of paper was replaced with a Chocolate Letter.
According to history, receiving letters at Christmas dates back centuries with the original letters being made of pastry. Before gift wrap, parents would cover the gifts with a sheet marking each child’s spot with a pastry in the shape of their initial.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the Dutch chocolate industry began to make letters in chocolate.
During World War 11, supply shortages meant no chocolate and for a period of time the letters were made of gingerbread.
I’m thinking it’s time to reintroduce some of these Dutch traditions back into ours lives. While the Chocolate Letter has always been a part of our Christmas tradition, I think that next year, on December 5th, I’ll be delivering Almond Pastry Letters to some special people.