Envy Fisher is a Blogger over at Lost In Translation (view her blog here). She is my pen pal; I’m teaching her Shorthand, and she’s teaching me Dutch. To fit with ‘Blogmas’, I asked her to guest post for me today. The title of this post is also a reference to a this song. 
Sinterklaas, who doesn’t know him? Well, apart from a few million Dutch speaking people, no one does. While the rest of the western world is already preparing for Christmas, my people are still holding out on the baubles and mistletoe until the 5th of December has come and gone, the day on which we celebrate Sinterklaas. It’s the favorite holiday of most kids and the main reason why Christmas isn’t as big in the Netherlands as it is in the UK, but very few people outside of my country know about it. Today, that’s going to change.
The figure of Sinterklaas is based on St. Nicolas, but by now the holiday has nothing to do with religion anymore. The story behind this holiday nowadays is that Sinterklaas visits the Netherlands once a year to bring presents to all the Dutch children who have been nice that year. He comes all the way from Spain and arrives about halfway through November. Sinterklaas arrives in a different city every year. This is a huge national celebration. I’m talking about television crews swarming around Sinterklaas, thousands upon thousands of people showing up to see it happen and even more watching the event live on tv or online. Apart from this ‘national arrival’, Sinterklaas also arrives in countless other cities and towns at the same time. He has the power and magical abilities to do that, we tell our children (it’s the power of being fictional, but sssshhhh).
Once Sinterklaas has arrived there’s always a bit of excitement in the air. We eat kruidnoten, pepernoten and taaitaai, traditional cookies and candy that Sinterklaas’ helper Zwarte Piet throws around wherever he goes. By the way Zwarte Piet is black because he enters houses to deliver presents through the chimney and got so dirty he couldn’t get the soot off anymore, not because of slavery; and that’s all I’ll say about that as the discussion is sucking a lot of fun out of an innocent children’s holiday.
So while everyone is getting into a festive mood and the old man himself has made his appearance in our small country, the children get to ‘put their shoes up’: they put their wishlist in one of their shoes, add a carrot for Sinterklaas’ horse Amerigo maybe, and sing a traditional Sinterklaas song. Zwarte Piet will hear their singing and picks up the wishlist. The next morning the kids find a small present in their shoe, or at the very least a chocolate letter, usually the initial of their first name.
Sinterklaas is everywhere and the excitement reaches its peak on the 5th of December, the old man’s birthday. On the night of the 5th he will deliver a burlap sack full of presents at the doors of all those who have been nice. Those who have been naughty don’t get anything: they are put into the burlap sack themselves and are taken back to Spain (which of course never happens, but you’ve got to keep your kids quiet and well-behaved somehow). It’s by far the most exciting night every year when you’re growing up in the Netherlands.
But at some point, just like with Santa, kids stop believing in Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. That doesn’t mean the celebrations are over though. Most families, schools and some groups of friends makes ‘surprises’ for each other, which they exchange on the 5th. This is like the Dutch version of Secret Santa: you draw a name and buy that person a present. That’s not all though. You get to be all crafty and make some special package for your present. I once made a football of papier-mâché and hid my present in that. Another year I made a gigantic pack of hagelslag, the chocolate sprinkles we put on our bread. Or you could just fill a box with slime as some people like to do. Last but not least you add a poem to the package, which is usually about how much you like the other person or why you picked that present for them.
All this is why the Dutch eagerly awaits a visit from Sinterklaas while the rest of the world is slowly getting into that Christmas mood. We celebrate his birthday on the 5th and then, the next day, he’s gone. Disappeared as if he’s never even been here. That’s when the Dutch finally go all out on the Christmas decorations and join the rest of the western world’s madness again. But until then, we’ll be eating kruidnoten while writing our friends and family a cheesy poem and our kids sing songs in front of their shoes.

This is a guest post by Lisa at Lisa’s Notebook; click here to see her blog. 
I’m lucky enough to have been invited to write another guest post for Lydia on here ,this time for her Blogmas series. So, I thought I’d share ten things that always say Christmas to me. In no particular order we have:
1. The Nativity.
We’re lucky enough to live in a village and I think there’s no better place to witness the re-enactment of the Nativity. It seems like the whole village turns out to support the actors and animals, it’s a lovely coming together.
2. Christmas shows
In the same vein, we get to go to Flora’s school Christmas show and it really is a #proudmummy moment, every year.
3. Present collations
I like to give lots of little gifts alongside one main gift so I love hunting these down and putting together mini Christmas stockings for family and friends.
4. Decanting my fruit gins and vodka
I make fruit gin and vodka every September (see my post here) and after 12 weeks steeping, it’s time to decant it ready for gifts (and us) by around mid-December. The smell is amazing, even though I say so myself ☺
5. Chocolate
Christmas is always an excuse to eat my own body weight in chocolate, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this?
6. Fairy lights
You can never have too many, and Christmas is a great reason to buy even more.
7. Trip to see Santa with Flora
We only ever make one trip to see Santa. Flora’s seven now so I’m not sure how many more Christmases we’ve got before she stops believing. But I think multiple trips would break the magic sooner rather than later.
8. Snow
In my dreams, but you never know.
9. Stocking the Advent Calendar
We have a lovely felt Advent Calendar that the Christmas Fairy tops up with a single Terry’s Chocolate Orange segment in each slot every night after Flora’s bedtime. And it’s amazing how early she gets up during December now…

10. Decorating the tree with Flora
We decorate the tree together every year, it’s one of my favourite times in December. And I’m always very proud of myself for not rearranging her efforts after she’s gone to bed. #OCD #SpiritofChristmas.

What are the things that always say Christmas to you?

With various callouts on Twitter for Christmas Blog Posts-for guests-Ruth responded. Here, she has designed some Christmas Planner inserts, and shares her inspiration: 
Beauty!-2
“These designs are based around an initial design I came up with last Christmas when I was joining in with a design prompt game on Instagram. They are called candy snowflakes and I just love the combination of the blue, pink, grey and orange. Not your usual Christmas colours! From my initial sketch I worked the design into a pattern repeat in Adobe illustrator and then used it as my background for my planner sheets which I created using Canva.”
If you wish to download these page, click the link to download them, and then print from your computer in colour:
Front cover Christmas planner
Christmas grocery list
Christmas timeline planner
Christmas travel checklist planner
christmas week planner
Happy Christmas daily planner sheet
Ruth also has a blog: view it by clicking here. And to visit her Etsy shop, click here.

After various callouts on Twitter, Taryn from She Hangs Brightly (click here to view) sent me this guest post to share with you all. 

Hi !

So Christmas is a time of joy, family, and presents (don’t forget them presents!) However it is a time that depression and anxiety can make it’s full entrance at the wrong time. Speaking from experience, Christmas Day can be a minefield for a person that is suffering from D&A.
The first stress factor is getting presents for everyone. Do you really need to get that present for your neighbours cousin’s boyfriend? No you do not. Send out cards, and get gifts for the people that really matter in your life.
The second stress factor is work. A lot of people work right up to the day (unless you are very lucky and for that I hate you lol) and often on the day itself are too wiped out to enjoy the day. Take time through the month to give yourself self care, and don’t push yourself trying to attend every Christmas event out there.
The third is where you are spending the day. Often family comes into this, with pressures perhaps real or imagined taking place. You have to ask yourself what you want out of the day. Do you want to have a chilled out day or a full day of family and food? It is your day too, and you need to look after yourself. I like to do both, where I have the loudness for awhile, then a bit of quiet time to recharge, often taking a walk after dinner if I can to get out the house and get a bit of fresh air. Make it work for you as it’s your health that matters.
The fourth is FOMO. There are lot of a great events on around Christmas, such as Christmas markets, dinners, parties, celebrities turning on lights, carolling, the list goes on. The problem is when you want to go to everything, and start to overwhelm yourself. Pick and choose your events over the holiday season, as you will be more tired over the month of December.
So here are a few tips for the December/Christmas extravaganza:

  1. Sleep well, Hydrate, Eat right (I know, it’s mundane, but try to eat some veggies and fruits).
  2. Say yes to events you really want to go to, and no to events that you don’t. There are sometimes obligatory things that happen around this time of year but really, it’s your health that matters and you need to pace yourself.
  3. Take time out over December to meditate, do yoga, run, what ever you do to relax. Make sure you get that alone time to really take in the moment and get your breath back.
  4. Remember it is only one day. Go into it expecting the best, and you shouldn’t be disappointed.
  5. Take in the moments over the day, and you will be surprised at how many make you feel good and that you feel you may have missed previous years!

Happy Christmas everyone and hope you all get unicorns in your stockings!
T xx

This is a guest post, written uniquely for this week, by Lisa McLachlan; you can view her blog here.  This post also features her cat, Jester. As a blogger, she has also been incredibly supportive of me, and makes for a very interesting pen pal-I love her cat cards! -Lydia 
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This post is a special one for me.  It’s a guest post for Lydia here on www.mademoisellewomen.com and also a follow up to to another post on my own blog, where I wrote about my daughter’s favourite books, the ones that (I think) inspired her love of reading.  After writing about her choices, I thought it would be fun to share my own top ten favourite childhood books too, so here we go 🙂
1. Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
There can’t be many people of my age (!) who don’t know the story of the black horse and his adventures.  Written from Beauty’s perspective, the novel covers Victorian England from the upper classes down to the knacker’s yard.  It’s a very cleverly written and accessible tale about having consideration for others, and animals in particular. And I absolutely LOVED Ginger, a feisty mare who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Click here to buy the book.
2. Watership Down – Richard Adams
A band of rabbits leave their warren in search of a safe new home and encounter all sorts of dangers along the way. Each rabbit has their own personality and Adams also created a beautiful accompanying rabbit mythology, and a really cool seagull! It’s been described as a WW2 analogy but I think there’s so much more to the book than that. I re-read it recently and loved it all over again – do give it a go if you’ve only ever seen the animated film, you won’t be disappointed. Click here to buy the book. 
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3. Finn Family Moomintroll – Tove Jansson
The tales of Moomintroll, Sniff, the Snork Maiden, the Hemulen, Snufkin, and a whole host of other creatures living in Moominvalley have become classics. The Moomins are like small fat white hippopotamuses who keep having adventures in their own utterly charming and magical world. Who knew that Hattifatteners become electric after a lighting storm?! Click here to buy the book.
4. The Famous Five – Enid Blyton
I feel very nostalgic about these books as I read them all, cover to cover, time after time. My favourite was Five Go To Mystery Moor but they were all good, albeit of their time. Maybe rather too much ginger beer, and sometimes I wanted to smack Julian for being so bossy, and Anne for being wet, but who couldn’t love Timmy? And not a mobile phone or computer game in sight either. Click here to buy the book. 
5. The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge
Another firm favourite: a family feud, a brave and stubborn heroine, heroes and villains, some magic, and a unicorn! The tale might be a little old fashioned for children today but the story is one that still resonates with me years later. Click here to buy the book.
6. My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell
The first book in The Corfu Trilogy, that formed the basis of the recently successful ITV The Durrells series. The books are SO MUCH better though! The stories of how Gerry introduced various fauna into his family villa on Corfu, and how his long suffering family coped (or not) always made me laugh out loud. A must read trilogy, and still relevant for today’s children. Click here to buy the book. 
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7. James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
Really, what is there to say about James and the Giant Peach that hasn’t already been said? The characters are just so brilliantly written and the descriptions of the peach juice, the Cloud Men, and of course, Aunts Sponge and Spiker, are without compare. Dahl was an absolute genius who knew exactly how to appeal to children. The End! Click here to buy. 
8. The Hobbit – J R R Tolkein
I first read The Hobbit around the age of nine and loved it straight away. Not as daunting as The Lord of the Rings, it’s a classic fantasy tale with dwarves, elves, goblins, wizards, trolls, SPIDERS, men, and of course, hobbits. I entered into Tolkien’s world completely and never wanted to come out again. Although the Peter Jackson films are wonderful, they still don’t do justice to the language and imagination of the original text. Click here to buy. Click here to buy. 
9. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Not just for children, the story is such a sweet one, and the illustrations are beautiful. As children, we all have huge imaginations and see things in very simple terms, but these facilities seem to slip away from us as we grow up. The Little Prince teaches us the most essential lesson: to remember what’s really important in life and to let the rest go. A re-reading of this book has reminded me I do have my own Rose: Flora. Click here to buy.
10. The Dark Is Rising – Susan Cooper
This is a series of five fantasy books, drawing on the legend of King Arthur, and centring on the age old battle between the Dark and the Light for the Pendragon’s heir. Merriman (Merlin) and his warriors help some modern day children follow clues and collect Signs, which then allow the hidden future boy king go back to regain his lost kingdom. Reading that back, I think I’ve made it sound rubbish but, I promise, it’s not! There’s folklore, history, magic, time travel, extremes of beliefs, adventures in spades, and (for a change) a really good female role model. If you saw the truly dreadful 2007 American film, then please banish it from your memory (as I’m sure Susan Cooper has tried to do) and give the books a go. They are the real deal. Click here to buy. 
So, these are my top ten childhood favourites, some of which I’ve re-read regularly throughout my adult life. And if I had to pick just one to take on a desert island? It would be my number 10, The Dark Is Rising series, and then I could daydream about Bran and Cafall coming to rescue me ☺
Do you recognise any of my choices? Which were your favourite books to read as a child? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear other recommendations.