Student Blog

Merry Christmas

16 Dec 2022

After two cancelled exchange semesters, English Language and Culture student Julia Vosmeijer is going to study in England for the upcoming semester. For Vox, she is taking part in a letter exchange, discussing her experiences in the UK with Holly Hartley – an English Literature exchange student from the University of Exeter who came to Nijmegen for her own exchange.

Dear Holly,

I am very glad you enjoyed Sinterklaas! I celebrated it in Canterbury, albeit on a much smaller scale. Luckily, I managed to convince two of my Dutch friends that came by in November to bring a bunch of chocolate letters for all my flatmates. My non-Dutch flatmates were absolutely delighted because they had never seen a chocolate version of the first letter of their name. It was an incredibly unique gift to them, which is funny because they’re so common in the Netherlands.

This year, I also decided to bake my own pepernoten. Or maybe it’s better to say: I had to resort to baking my own pepernoten. Pepernoten are a cornerstone of Sinterklaas. For me, the holiday would be incomplete without those small cookies. However, it turns out that pepernoten don’t exist in the UK – and neither does the typical Dutch spice mix called speculaaskruiden, with which they are made. But because I didn’t want to miss out on them, I improvised. I toasted nutmeg, cloves, coriander seeds and anise pods, ground them into a powder and then added cinnamon and ginger to the mix. It turns out that hand-grinding whole spices requires a lot of manual labour, but it was totally worth it in the end! The pepernoten came out very well and the smell of the speculaaskruiden reminded me of home.

Next to rediscovering new ways of celebrating this traditional Dutch holiday, I’ve also celebrated a holiday that I’d never celebrated before. As I’ve told you in previous letters, I live with Americans. This meant that we celebrated Thanksgiving on a very large scale. I’m talking the whole package: stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. We started cooking in the early afternoon, and some of us were still busy right before the meal was about to start. Ten people in total contributed a dish to this absolute feast. I baked a green bean casserole, which, I was told, is a staple in any Thanksgiving celebration. And I’m happy to say that my casserole was well-reviewed. I am, however, less proud to admit that I, a proud vegetarian, had a bite of the turkey. But let’s be honest, when am I ever going to get the chance of trying an authentic Thanksgiving turkey again? You have to pick your battles.

I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year! I look forward to continuing our correspondence in the new year.


Read Julia Vosmeijer's blogs here

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