It’s always an amazing thing to celebrate typical holidays in a different country because you really get to experience a different culture! You also get the chance to be exposed to different customs and practices… so! I consider myself very lucky to have been able to experience a European holiday right here in Belgium.
Here’s how it went for me!
My 2014 Christmas
♥ I had my first White Christmas & Snowfall!
Growing up in the tropics, we naturally don’t have snow. Yep, none at all. (Well of course). That’s why you could imagine how ridiculously happy and hyper I was when in the 27th, snow had started to fall in Belgium!
Snowfall is actually rare in Flanders (the northern part of Belgium) especially during the first month of winter, so it was unexpected when it came early and heavy! Though they told me that it probably won’t snow again for the rest of winter (it only lasted for less than a week), I am still happy that I have at least witnessed it and it even happened on Christmas! …Well okay, it was 2 days late but I think it still counts as my first white Christmas, haha!
The snow actually started very early in the morning: 3AM. And guess what? Jonas and I were both awake (because we have a very weird body clock at that moment) and I’m thankful that we were! :P There’s actually a funny story to it…
At first, it started raining really hard and the temperature was nearing 0° so I was so excited when I started to see snow falling down. However, Jonas discouraged me from hoping for a ‘white scene’ because the rain was too strong and the ground wasn’t ‘frosty’ enough for the snow to settle in.
But ‘lo and behold…! Within half an hour, I started to see snow piling up! We waited some more and BAM, my ‘white scene’ was there, right outside our window! Jonas hasn’t seen snow for 2 years (having stayed in the Philippines for that long) and of course, there was me who hasn’t seen one for eternity; so the end result = we put on our thickest clothes and went outside to play! LOL.
See how happy I was (that my voice almost bordered on being that of a Chipmunk’s)! Below is another clip the morning after as snow still continually fell:
The following days, we strolled around town and visited his parents in Malle (we live in Schoten at the moment which is nearer to Antwerp City). I even went on a quick stroll with Jonas’ dad in the forest and here are more photos of my winter wonderland:
Oh, about the last photo above, when we were strolling in the forest (and while I was struggling not to slip or stumble into frozen water), Jonas’ dad and I saw people playing with their sleds. They were mostly kids alright but we still both felt bad that we didn’t bring one, haha! And then somewhere along the way, we even saw horses pulling sleds and I just had to take a photo of this particular horse because he was pulling a… chair sled? which totally made us go: “WTF?” Haha!
Now certainly, after experiencing snow, I have come to learn several things:
- It’s very cold. Well, duh. But you see, I’ve been battling with cold here for a few months ever since autumn, but oh… winter can be harsh! Surely I know it’s called ‘winter’ for a reason but it was simply harsher than I thought. So far though, I don’t hate it.
- It needs to reach frost in order for snow to stay and not melt. By frost, that’s 0° and below. Snow can’t pile up if the ground is not frosty enough. It will just melt. But it can stay if there’s heavy snowfall (which was what happened on the 27th for us). Later on, if the ground is not frozen enough, stepping on snow is like stepping on squishy ice water—it’s a bit disgusting and gray. So what you have to wish for is that crunchy sound of pure frozen ice.
- Salt helps if you want to get rid of snow. But who wants that! …err, vehicles on the road, of course. So that was brand new information for me; to know that salt helps melt the snow and absorb it, thereby preventing it from piling up again. If snow continues for days, there’s usually this big truck that regularly spreads salt on the roads.
- Car doors, for example, can get frozen. It’s not a laughing matter, but I found it a bit cute when I see people try to pry their car doors open. I witnessed this in the parking lot after going out one night: once we finished struggling with our own doors, I suddenly noticed that everyone around us were doing the same! I dunno, I just found that cute. And yes, I’m weird.
- Snow balls can hurt. I had visions of having fluffy soft ‘balls’ being thrown at me, but those visions were crushed when Jonas threw one at me. It hurt… It was made from snow that’s not fully frozen; hence, a bit water-y and heavy (fully frozen snow can’t be shaped into balls anyways) so imagine how I complained to Jonas: “Why is it not fluffy?! Whyyyyyy?” On the other hand, due to tiredness and not-so-optimal conditions, I haven’t done my first snow angel and snowman yet so I guess that’s something to look forward to now!
Overall: I wouldn’t mind it if snow lasts longer. Since it’s practically NOT gonna snow here again in Belgium, I wish we could go somewhere up north. (We’d love to try skiing too, so go figure!)
♥ I had my first experience of European Christmas Markets (Kerstmarkt + Weihnachtsmarkt)!
I’ve actually already made an article about this so come check it out here!
Christmas markets are unlike any other typical street-market that I have ever been to. Well actually, it’s nowhere else, unless you’re in Europe or in certain areas in the U.S. (since this idea was born somewhere in Germany or in one of the old parts of the Late Middle Age Holy Roman Empire.
I’ve said it in the post and I’ll say it again: it was a magical experience and a definite bucket-list for everyone especially if you’re looking for that ultimate Christmas experience!
♥ I had my LOTR fandom relived!
I am a huuuuuge fan of the movie series: Lord of The Rings (also of Star Wars and Harry Potter, but this is about LOTR so let’s get back to that). Last December, we discovered that an orchestra will be playing LIVE in Antwerp while they play the first movie of the LOTR—so holy molly! We quickly jumped on it and purchased tickets!
On the day itself, this was how the Sportpaleis (a huge auditorium) in Antwerp looked like:
I started having chills.
But when the movie started and the orchestra proceeded playing: I had even MORE chills! It was amazing. I have been legally high before (as seen here in this article) and this experience was similar to it. I say this because when you’re high, your senses are seemingly heightened and this show just made me feel exactly that simply because the music was so clear, loud, and precise! The video below won’t do it much justice (and also, it’s short because of Instagram’s video limit) but I hope this gives you an idea on how awesome it was:
A video posted by Aileen Adalid (@i_am_aileen) on
I believe that next year they will be doing the same but with the 2nd movie, so if you’re ever dropping by in Belgium next Christmas, come and check them out!
♥ I had my first Christmas with the Van Baelens!
I have to admit that Christmas is more festive in the Philippines (well, we start celebrating as early as September! LOL I know it’s crazy!) But that doesn’t mean that Belgium is not festive, it is festive but in a more mellow and non-commercialized way.
Ultimately: I had a really great time celebrating Christmas with Jonas’ family! We had Christmas dinner over at their house and it was swell. One thing I noticed though, is that giving of gifts is not so popular here.
For example, people rather like to just spend time together and I find that really appealing because I have this feeling that Christmas’ meaning tends to be overshadowed by all the hype of buying + receiving presents when in fact it should be about the ‘giving’ sense instead. (You know how we always feel obligated to give presents to those who will give us presents? In a way I find that non-ideal because giving should be done freely without expecting anything in return).
My 2014 New Year
♥ I had my first ‘Belgian’ way of celebrating New Year!
In the Philippines, it’s normal for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to be both celebrated with the family. Any celebrations with friends would have to come afterwards. I like that custom, but somehow, I have come to LOVE the ‘Belgian’ way of celebrating New Year more! (Maybe it’s also a European thing…)
Basically Belgians celebrate Christmas Eve with their families, but come New Year’s Eve, it’s celebrated with friends! So for this year, we invited Jonas’ friends over to our new apartment and we all cooked together!
It was SO much fun! Other than the divine duck meat that Ben & Jonas cooked, I also prepared a good ol’ Filipino dish: adobong manok! And I’m so glad that they liked it!
As midnight was drawing near, we left the apartment to catch a bus to Antwerp so that we can watch the fireworks. (Another contrast: in the Philippines, by that time, every house would have been setting off fireworks and firecrackers and it would be sooooo loud. [Jonas hated that; well he hates noise]. But in here, since it’s regulated [say no to pollution!] fireworks are only set off if you have a license.)
We actually spent 00:00 in the subway since we were running late, but gladly, we managed to catch the last 10 minutes of the fireworks in the city and we even had a very nice view! (Thanks to Jonas’ advice!)
(Jonas’ friends—who are now my friends too—are awesome!)
When the fireworks show ended, we went to a bar somewhere in Antwerp to spend the night away. And oh! Something interesting happened…
SHOUTOUT to Kimi!
I met this girl named Kimi that night in Antwerp! Apparently, she’s one of the readers of my blog and I would just like to say that Kimi, if you’re reading this, thank you for coming up to me and for recognizing me! I’m very glad to have met you! (And it was nice speaking Tagalog again to someone, face-to-face, haha!)
So guys, if you ever spot me, please don’t be shy. I’d love to meet and talk with you and maybe even get in touch later on. It’s always a great thing to be able to connect with those who follow my adventures :)
I might have just had the PERFECT celebration for Christmas and New Year and I am very thankful to have experienced all of this! Here’s to an awesome jumpstart for 2015, cheers!
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Hey there! I am Aileen Adalid.
At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to pursue my dreams. Today, I am a successful digital nomad (entrepreneur, travel writer, & vlogger) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel too (no matter the odds), and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel guides, adventures, resources, tips, and MORE!
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