Science - December 14, 2006

How to survive the festive season

Only one week left, then you can finally start relaxing. Besides recovering from your exams, there’s lots to do during the holiday.

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Although winter seems to be avoiding the Netherlands this year, the inhabitants are doing their best to create the cosy atmosphere we associate with the festive season. For students in Wageningen and Velp, the Open Air Museum in Arnhem offers memories of when winters were really cold, recreating scenes of cosy gatherings around the burning fire.

Were you one of the few who joined the ice-skating organised by KSV International or did you miss it? Grab the chance now: the entrance area of the museum has been turned into a big outdoor ice-rink. The museum is open from midday everyday except 25 December and 1 January. For those in Leeuwarden, there is also a skating opportunity: the market square in the town centre has been iced over. Skates can be rented in both places.

Christmas
And then of course, there is Christmas. Many international students won’t be able to return to their home-country. Gather friends and enjoy a Christmas meal together, even if Christianity is not your religion. Most Dutch people don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious event, but spend time with family and friends. Christmas trees are sold on several street corners. Look for cheap decorations in second-hand shops or cheap shops like the Wibra. Once you are in the Christmas mood, you can continue partying in town on ‘second’ Christmas day, 26 December, also an official holiday in the Netherlands. See the What’s on section for parties, and most cafés and pubs are open.

Oliebollen
The festivities continue with New Year’s Eve. According to Dutch tradition, you cannot celebrate this without oil-dumplings, known as oliebollen. You can buy these from special stands at this time of the year, but it might be fun to make them yourself. Don’t forget to open your doors and windows as it’s a smelly and greasy business. The easiest way is to buy a packet of oliebollen mixture in the supermarket, for example Koopmans.
- Put the mixture in a big bowl and add half a litre of lukewarm water.
- Stir until you have a smooth batter.
- Cover it with plastic and let it rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.
- Heat sunflower oil in a deep frying pan.
- Shape round balls out of the batter using two spoons. Slide them gently into the hot oil and deep fry for 3-4 minutes. Remove the balls with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Fireworks
Apart from the oliebollen, New Year’s Eve is not complete without fireworks. Go find yourself a place where you can look out over town, like one of the high student flats, and enjoy the fantastic view at midnight. Alternatively, buy fireworks yourself. Due to strict regulations, only a few shops are allowed to sell them, but they are clearly indicated.

Once the fireworks show has finished after midnight, it’s time to get into town. Most pubs and cafés are open, but you often need tickets for the parties. Buy them a few days in advance to avoid disappointment.

After New Year’s Eve, you can finally relax and recover from all the oliebollen and party-moments. Use the few days left before courses start again to discover more of the Netherlands. It is a perfect time to visit cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht. At the tourist information centre VVV you can find out about special events nearby.

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