You know, you can say what you want, but I still can’t figure out how in God’s name the Dutch ever reached the conclusion that St. Nicholas spent most of the year in Spain. It’s probably not half as baffling as the assertion that the Netherlands is the world’s second biggest exporter of food, but that’s another story. The first story doesn’t quite add up. Most Spaniards don’t know this anecdote, and when I tell them they are greatly amused. The ones who are history buffs will often muse for a second and say that it must be because “Spain occupied Holland for decades.” (twelve decades to be more exact). While this might explain why the Dutch have traditionally had a disliking for the Spanish, and maybe gives us more insight as to their violent performance in the 2010 World Cup Final, but just why relationship there is between divisions of lance-wielding soldiers oppressing a nation and a gifting-giving bishop bringing joy to children.
Then 300 years later, the Dutch got back at them by sending Santa Claus, via the United States, to contaminate their age-old traditions. There also exists the figure of the Niño Jesús (The Baby Jesus) whose gift of eternal life is symbolized in the form of dolls, balls, and Xbox One. This has always seemed to me like a Franco-period solution to the appearance of St. Nick, who, by the way, was not from Spain but rather Turkey. Nor was he an elf, and his feast day, by the way, falls a full three weeks before his worldwide tour. The Dutch apparently give him a few weeks to work his way around the country and complete his job, which I strongly feel is a much more reasonable target time than what the rest of the planet expects of poor guy. The Dutch have always stood out for humanistic ideas. For their human ideas.
So, regardless of who is charge of the present delivery system, and how long it takes them to perform their tasks, the gifts came…they came all the same.
Now, if there is one area where American eating habits decisively outclass Spain’s, it’s in the breakfast department. Oh, they will sing wonders about their toast spread with natural tomato sauce, olive oil and a little salt, and God know there is something Mediterraneanly healthy about that, but the fact remains that when you place your average Spaniard in a full-scale hotel breakfast buffet, all those hang-ups about butter, pancakes and greasy bacon fall apart and they essentially turn into famished hyenas. They hate to admit it, but it’s true.
Christmas breakfast in the U.S. is a truly momentous moment, and the Americans really know how to flex their culinary muscles in this respect. The stacks of hotcakes, the mounds of muffins, the buckets of scrambled eggs, all make for an ideal way to celebrate that special morning. I must admit I miss it when I’m not there. I miss not being able to look out the window at the bright morning winter sunshine coating a thick blanket of snow and enjoying nice, hot breakfast. Instead, I was limited to a standard fare of orange juice, coffee and maybe some cookies. Ironic, isn’t it? All that healthy eating that’s bragged about in this land and one of the most popular ways to start the day is with a big bag of Chips Ahoy. I opted for neither and offered a daddy classic: toast with an egg, more commonly known as egg-in-a-basket. I discovered it in Moonstruck and never looked back. Friends consider it to be one of my finest attributes, and I believe it’s why their my friends at all.
We munched away silently as we regarded our presents, then turned on the TV, a few rerun episodes of Criminal Minds, just to get into the holiday spirit. The show almost always features psychopaths who slaughter children. It would seem wholly inappropriate, but my kid seemed to like it. Funny the things that bring people together.