CHRISTMAS 21 - Barten's holidays tied to tradition, food
BY DENNY SCOTT
While it may come as little surprise, Willeke Barten, who recently opened her home-based bakery near Londesborough, has a lot of Christmas traditions tied to food.
From the traditional snacks left in her shoes on Dec. 5 every year, a practice that is at home in the Netherlands, to offering her own cultural culinary holiday touchstones through her bakery, Wilhelmina Bakery, Barten said food has become an important part of the holidays, second, of course, to family.
Barten’s family moved to Canada years ago, she said, and when they did, her parents chose to focus on North American traditions instead of those from the Netherlands. However, some of the traditions persisted thanks to gifts from family members, Barten said.
“The year we moved, a gift from my grandmother showed up on Dec. 5,” she said, explaining many Dutch people trade gifts that day. “So that year, we celebrated both ways.”
Barten returned to the Netherlands several years ago to study baking and making ice cream and, in doing so, brushed up on her own culture, helping to further refine what she now offers through her bakery.
She also had an opportunity to learn more about the holiday traditions there, getting together with friends and family for Dec. 5 before flying home for Christmas each year. She said being able to celebrate that way was a great experience.
While she celebrates in a more North American way now, she said there are some differences her family has always observed, like the two days of Christmas. In the Netherlands, she said there is no Boxing Day, but two Christmas Days with a focus on spending time with family. Her family has kept that tradition, and she has as well, spending either Dec. 25 or Dec. 26 with her own family and the other day with her boyfriend Sam Kalverboer’s family.
This year she looks forward to sharing her culinary heritage with customers by offering a few very special Christmas and holiday staples. She said she will, of course, be making her Dutch classic chocolate cakes, which are a year-round staple, but also taking on Dutch gingerbread, speculaas, almond logs, Dutch classic Christmas logs and oliebollen.
“Oliebollen is a New Year’s Eve treat,” she said. “While it’s sold all December long in the Netherlands now, I’m keeping to the tradition of making it a New Year’s Eve treat and will be making them only for that day.”
She said some of the culinary confections aren’t necessarily part of her own Christmas traditions, but she does understand that they are must-haves for some families, and says that, in some cases, people have travelled from far afield to pick them up for the Christmas holidays.
Barten said she is very much looking forward to celebrating the holidays, especially since she was able to open her bakery just in time to help people sample the culinary delights from her home country.
For more information, visit Wilhelmina Bakery on Facebook.