This is not about Santa Claus. Here comes Saint Nicholas all the way from the Netherlands with my terrific friend Mina Witterman … we always have a grand time when we catch up at SCBWI conferences around the globe!
Of Birds, Shepherds and Sheep
In the Netherlands, we don’t have a Santa tradition – we have our own Saint Nicholas who surprises us with gifts early December – but we do love our Christmas trees. I remember one Christmas decorating the tree together with my two brothers – my little sisters weren’t born yet – each of us did a different level of the tree. We were free in how and what we put in the tree and each of us had their favorite pieces. My favorites were a handful of little silver birds with spread wings. I would clip them to the branches and they would look like they could take flight any moment. All they needed was a little breeze to lift them. That year I was chosen to put on the top. A true honor! My Dad took me up and flew me on his shoulder like an airplane, while climbing the high ladder, and in mid-flight I would carefully land the top on the tree.
But the highlight of that year was found closer to the floor, where our nativity scene was. A dear friend of my parents, a sculptor, made us gorgeous clay figures of Maria, Joseph, little baby Jesus in his crib, the Magi, a donkey and an ox. And a shepherd. I visited our friend daily at his studio to watch him make the figures. When I told him there had to be sheep as well or the shepherd would be very lonely and sad if he didn’t have his friends with him, he gave me with three chunks of clay. Together we sculpted the sheep. I worked for hours and hours with a little modeling tool clasped in my hand for the sheep’s fur. I would push the tool in and twist it into a sweet little curl after curl. I can still feel the excitement and the glow of pride when ‘my sheep’ came out the oven. Now the shepherd would always have his friends with him and he would never be lonely or sad.
Mina Witteman is a children’s author, writing in Dutch and English. Her books include Boreas en de zeven zeeën (Boreas and the Seven Seas) (2015), the first book of a middle grade adventure series, and Mia’s nest, a dear little Golden Book, and over 40 short stories in magazines and read-aloud anthologies.
When not writing, Mina teaches creative writing. She is a freelance editor and a mentor to budding writers. She is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI The Netherlands and Chairman of the Working Group Children’s Books of the Dutch Authors Guild. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Mina lives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and you can uncover more about her at her website – minawitteman.com
More on the Carolinas later but Pam Vaughan (official photographer for the New England conference last weekend) has just sent me oodles and poodles of photos … so if you don’t want to see piccies of me in action – then look away now! There are photos of me with friends, of me panelling, photos […]