Hilvarenbeek

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We’ve just landed at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and I walk immediately to the incorrect side of our rental car. There’s nothing suave about that first dorky moment when you can’t work out how to change gear with the wrong hand, flick on the windscreen wipers instead of the indicators nor look the wrong way at the intersection. But we survive and hit the motorways of Holland to drive across the country for Christmas with my Oma (grandmother).

We make good time on empty roads until I see a sign advertising puntzak friet (hot chips) at the next service station. It’s just service station food but it’s presented so beautifully; not just slapped on a plate.

We get a bit lost finding Oma’s house. A lap of tiny Hilvarenbeek ensues with its one way lanes and dead ends. But eventually we find the place and are entering the Christmas dinner preparation sanctum. Oma and my aunt from Portugal are cooking up a storm. As afternoon becomes evening more family arrive to fill Oma’s small home. It’s quite the gezelig feast with conversation, good food and laughter. There’s no gifts exchanged because that’s not part of the Dutch Christmas tradition: it’s all about connection and family.

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