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It is easy to get lost in the run-up to Christmas.  The pressure to give presents increases as the holiday approaches and the list seems endless.  And you haven’t even started planning the Christmas dinner yet.

One can glean a lot from the way the Dutch celebrate Christmas.  Perhaps, the most valuable of all is letting go of commercial manipulations practices disguised as generosity, creating shopping madness even to the most organized among us.

Having spent the holiday season in Holland the past three years, here are four reasons why this particular time of year has been very relaxing ever since.

1) The Dutch are big on sending Christmas cards, not on gift-giving.

Church Tower in Oud Rijswijk, The Netherlands

It’s the thought that counts, really.  This takes a lot of pressure off from the last minute shopping sprees trying to figure out which present to give to whom; sometimes done out of courtesy or social obligation or in keeping up with others’ expectations.

2) Friendships are celebrated by having intimate dinners with the people who really matter.

No fancy dress up parties, no fake pleasantries, no social obligations.  You show up because you really like the company and the conversation and not because it’s a social happening.

3) The obligatory company parties and exchange of gifts are non-existent.

4) Christmas Day is a family affair.

As a testament to this, there are two Christmas days.  The first one, December 25, is when the whole family sits down for a lovely dinner together.  December 26 is also known as second Christmas Day and gives couples a chance to visit the other side of the couple’s family, and the grandchildren to see their other set of grandparents.  This also means a lot of traveling up and down, but the Dutch don’t seem to mind. Family ties run deep.

It is no surprise that Christmas in Holland is not dictated by retailer stimulations.  The Dutch people are known for being stingy, and yet, The Netherlands stands at no. 6 in the world ranking of donor countries providing economic aid to developing nations.

Generosity doesn’t happen once a year.

And those of you who worry too much about that ubiquitous Christmas list are usually the ones who are thoughtful to family and friends and provide help to those in need the whole year round.

I am not against giving presents.  But it is overrated in certain parts of the world and that is not the essence of Christmas.  I prefer the toned-down Dutch version and that is why I love spending this time here.

Besides, there’s always the possibility of a snow white Christmas adding to the holiday cheer!

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