Christmas Gala- the story unveiled

Festive lights on the streets of Rotterdam and the sight of white-bearded man arriving by boat from Spain marks the beginning of not just the cold Dutch winter, but also the joyful holiday season. At this time of year, the Chinese Students Association of Erasmus University Rotterdam (CSA-EUR) is in midst of preparing arrangements for the annual Christmas Gala.

The program

Catered for details

This year, the events committee of CSA-EUR wanted to take the gala to a new level by adding an after-party to the program, and after scouting a wide range of locations ended up by the river at the upscale Aqua Asia.

“The Gala is a special event that brings together members of CSA-EUR to celebrate the festive season”- Jiaxin Ma, CSA President

So far, the events committee has worked to put together a great menu, prepared a table setting to match, and overcame an initial misfit in the date of the event. But as with any large event, the planning wasn’t without difficulties. Despite the myriad of restaurants situated in Rotterdam, one of the difficulties faced by the events committee was venue selection. To find the ideal location to host the Gala, we listed some of the factors that we thought were of greatest importance, with these being: warm atmosphere, intimate setting and budget.

After coming up and contacting an initial list of restaurants, we fine-tuned our list further by looking at the dishes offered and opted to give preference to Asian-inspired fine dining cuisine considering the nature of CSA-EUR. Finally, after paying a visit to our top choices and negotiating on a final menu, we settled on Aqua Asia. With the approaching of the date of the Gala, the events committee are looking to brush up on the finer details of the event; red carpets, gifts, and ambient music. And as small and irrelevant as some details may seem, the neglecting of such details are what often creates the major issues, and the attention to such details are what makes an event memorable.

The venue, Aqua Asia Club

As Steve Job’s once said, “details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right”. With hours of planning behind the Gala we expect it to be a night to remember!

Christmas Gala 2016 is hosted in Aqua Asia on the 19th of December. For more information about the prices, menu and program, click here.

Written by Jeffrey Chen

Sinterklaas Party!

The month of festivities is just around the corner, and for children in the Netherlands, it means: Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas)! Sinterklaas and his servants, ‘Pieten’ (usually painted black), are similar to Santa Claus and his elves. St. Nicholas’ day is actually on the 6th of December, but the main celebrations are on the 5th.

Arrival

The tradition goes that Sinterklaas and his Pieten travel on a steamboat from Madrid to a city or town in the Netherlands on the second Saturday of November. When the steamboat arrives, Sinterklaas and his Pieten are welcomed by children happily cheering and singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. Then Sinterklaas leads a procession on his white horse Amerigo, while his Pieten throw around candy and small, round, gingerbread-like cookies, called kruidnoten or pepernoten.

Food

food-sinterklass
                   Sinterklass specialties

Only around this time, you’ll be able to buy Sinterklaas traditional food. You might have seen these already in your local supermarket: the kruidnoten or pepernoten as mentioned before, chocolate letters, chocolate coins and ‘banketletters’ (letter cake), usually the letter S and made from marzipan or pastry filled with almond paste.

Leaving out shoes

Sinterklaas is in town now, so for the children, it means it’s time for presents! But not all children get presents. Children are told that the Pieten keep record of all the things they have done in a big book. Good children will get presents, but naughty children will be taken in a sack to Spain for a year to teach them how to behave, or they will get spanked with a birch rod!
On the evenings, children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or under the windowsill with a letter for Sinterklaas and a carrot or sugar cubes for the horse and hope that Sinterklaas will come during the night and leave some presents. They do this because they’re told that, during the night, Sinterklaas rides on his horse on the roofs and that a Piet will then climb down the chimney or through the window and put presents and candy (usually chocolate coins or a chocolate letter of the first letter of the child’s name) in their shoes.

Origin

Now you might wonder, where does this come from?
The legend goes back to the Middle Ages, when Saint Nicholas helped a shoemaker and his three daughters. The shoemaker was too poor to afford a dowry for his daughters to get married. The daughters then planned to walk the streets and raise money as prostitutes. Nicholas heard of this and was very shocked, so he decided to go to their house during the night and throw a purse with coins through the window. According to some stories, this purse landed in the shoe of the eldest daughter. When they found it, they felt blessed, and the eldest daughter could get married.

Time for presents!

The evening of December the 5th is called Sinterklaasavond (St. Nicholas’ Eve) or Pakjesavond (present evening). During this evening, there might be a knock on the door from Sinterklaas, which means, presents (or not)! Usually, treasure hunt games are played with poems and riddles giving clues of where the presents are hidden.

On the 6th of December Sinterklaas and his Pieten (and the naughty children) leave the Netherlands by steamboat and travels back to Spain.

Party time

When the children get older, they won’t believe in Sinterklaas anymore. But, they will still celebrate it with family or friends. A custom at the Sinterklaas party, is that everyone puts a note with their name in a hat and then everyone randomly picks another person from the hat. Then they have to make a surprise present and buy presents for the person they picked, and sometimes write a poem.

As a student, you probably don’t have that much time to make a surprise present. So instead of that, you can play a dice game. You can find the rules here, so gather your friends, try the game, and celebrate this day like the Dutch!

sinterklass-csaWritten by Yu Fee Chan

Christmas Trips: 4 Ideas for an Ultimate Christmas Holiday

Christmas is not just a holiday when you can wake up late, sip hot chocolate and stuff yourself with mommy’s food- it’s also the time for you to explore and hangout! Here are the 4 day-trip ideas for this Christmas- bring your date (or your mates) along and experience this holiday to the fullest.

Amsterdam day trip

amsterdam-lightAdmittedly, Amsterdam is the perfect option, regardless of the seasons. But what can you do in the city this time of the year (apart from visiting Museums and coffee shops)?

Start off your trip by visiting Museumplein! This year’s Ice Village is celebrated in the area, with a huge ice rink and gourmet street food. As dawn comes, it’s time for the Amsterdam Light Festival! With two separate tours: Illuminade walk tour and Water Colors boat route, this is an extraordinary outdoor light exhibition where artists show off their talents within a unique theme.

  • Ice Village Amsterdam is open during 17-30 December. More information here.
  • Amsterdam Light Festival is open during December 1- January 22. For tickets and tour information, click here.

 

Dickens Festival- Deventer

Dickens Festival 2012If you are a bookaholic (like I am), this off-track, traditional Christmas experience is the event you do not want to miss. In this festival, the whole Bergkwartier area is transformed into the ancient, 19th-century English town (it’s time to wear your grandma clothing). More than 900 characters from Charles Dicken’s books will be turned into life, so do not miss the chance to take a photo with Oliver Twist! One more plus is free entrance. However, make sure to be an early bird, as the queue is expected to be lengthy.

  • When: 18-19 December. More information here.

 

 

Winter Efteling

eftelingThe theme park will be filled with lovely Christmas decorations this winter! Indulge yourself in the 450-meter ski track, have a round or two in the Ice Palace, or just simply sit down in one of the squares and enjoy the free shows that Efteling offers. The choices are yours!

  • The winter version of Efteling is open during November 14- December 31. More information and tickets here.

 

Cologne Christmas Markets

happy-christmasThe Germans are not only proud of the beloved Oktoberfest- their Christmas markets are pretty famous as well. Among many markets scattering around the whole country, Cologne is within a reasonable reach from Rotterdam, yet the vibe this city offers is warming, cosy and unique.

With 7 markets in the city, the only thing you are lack of while in Cologne is time. Exploring the wooden pavilions near the Cathedral, strolling down the stalls with a picturesque view of the Rhine or buying crafted gifts in Old Town market- the choices are endless. Don’t forget to have a sip of Gluhwein and treat yourself with their delicious street food before leaving!

  • CSA is offering a round-trip bus ticket from Rotterdam to Cologne- tickets are from 30 euros each (I know, that’s a steal!) Grab your tickets here!

On behalf of CSA-EUR, I wish you a cheerful, merry Christmas with your beloved ones. Try out our options and tell us which one(s) you love best!

Written by Khiet Anh Nguyen