Category Archives: Christmas

Pointy White Hats at School? (Unexpected Blessing – Christmas)

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.13.49 AMGrowing up in the rural south, I thought I knew what those guys in pointy white hats were all about. If you’re American and know about the KKK, you can imagine my surprise at walking into my sons’ international school and seeing young men and boys in white robes wearing tall, white, pointed hats.

The costume of the KKK, an image of hate and terror from my childhood

The costume of the KKK, an image of hate and terror from my childhood

I did not know the tradition of several Scandinavian countries to celebrate Santa Lucia on December 13th near the time of the Winter Solstice.

Around Christmas time….The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.

St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304AD. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name. (More here.)

Who could resist following the girls with their crowns and all the children in white to the auditorium? Not me. A beautiful older student stood in St. Lucy’s place leading the parade of children and youth. The fiery candles burning on her crown made me hope she hadn’t worn much hair spray. By candle light traditional carols drifted with the light smoke odor to my ears.

Our international school's celebration last year

Our international school’s celebration last year

The song from the procession repeated as the children filed out. Which carol was it? I wondered as I later read the first lines of three: The night walks with heavy steps, or Saint Lucy bright mirage, or the modern Outside it is dark and cold. Regardless, it was an all together lovely celebration followed by cookies and country displays in the cafeteria.

Living overseas, so much is entirely new to me yet parts of age old traditions to others. I find I am grateful for the unexpected blessing of those pointy white hats. A vision long associated with extremism, racism, and terror in my country has been, if not redeemed, at least altered. I have a new vision superimposed over the one of  hatred and violence. A vision of light and the love that Christ inspired in one young woman, a girl named Lucy.


Kristin King is an author, US expat in Holland, and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa. Unexpected Blessings is a category of posts that includes Am I a Bad Mom? and Sunrise Over Port de Pollenca.

Feel free to comment and leave your own stories of the unexpected.



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Lions, Tigers and Cape Buffaloes? (Holland Expat)

Dutch circular page from my mailbox.

Dutch circular page from my mailbox.

Sinterklaas arrived in Holland well before America’s Black Friday, so advertisers have been promoting small toys for those shoes by the fire-place. Sinterklaas will be stopping by our house this coming weekend to fill the footwear, meanwhile I see the ads like this one and reminisce.

Stuffed animals were some of my cuddliest friends as a child, but I seem to recall it was quite difficult to find exotic beasts in our local Kentucky stores. When I sat on Santa’s knee in Lexington and received a baby elephant, I named her Ella and announced she needed a Mama by December 25th. None could be found.

Poor baby Ella. Did she ever get a Mama?

Did she ever! Her Mama elephant was like no other. With a pink gingham body and huge rose-colored polyester ears, Mama Elephant (as she was dubbed) arrived that Christmas with all the hand-made touches my own mother designed in her efforts to make sure her own doll baby, Kristin, would not be disappointed come Christmas morn.

Ty Beanie Babies: otter, bear, and stork

Ty Beanie Babies: otter, bear, and stork

Days gone by, before Beanie Babies produced every animal we have ever heard of and some we have not in palm-sized forms.

What if your toy company was only going to make a set of four or maybe five stuffed animals? What would they be?

This is why I wanted to share this Dutch advertisement. A stack from bottom to top of elephant and lion (obvious classics), a hippo (less obvious), a rhino (interesting), and…what’s that on top? Is that a water buffalo? I had to find out why this creature was the pinnacle of the stuffed-toy stack in The Netherlands.

My historian husband informed me that the featured bovine was a Cape buffalo, the African cousin to the Asian water buffalo.

As in Cape Town?

Yes, he said, reminding me that long before modern South Africa was a British colony, it was a Dutch colony (Cape Colony). In fact, the Dutch East Indies Company set up a way-station in 1652 for their ships traveling to and from Asia that turned into colony much to their chagrin. Afrikaans is one of the eleven official languages of modern South Africa and the one descended from and closely related to Dutch. You can get by with Afrikaans in Holland, and I have been known to mistakenly assume a new friend was “Dutch” only to find out she was South African.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.47.38 AMAll these pieces came together for me, an expat whose history knowledge is sorely lacking, and now I see how the great Cape Buffalo found his way to the top of the stuffed toy stack in Holland. Of course he did! Check out the size of his ears and the way they hang down below his horns. Who wouldn’t want a stuffed Cape buffalo?

Now that I think about it….uh, Santa? If you’re not too busy…



Kristin King is an author, animal lover, nonprofit co-founder, and American expat living in The Netherlands. Thinking about giving beyond friends and family? Consider Future Hope Africa, breaking the cycle of poverty through education one child at a time.

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Posted by on November 30, 2015 in Christmas, Living in Holland


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Christmas Eve in Africa (Ethiopia) – 12 Days of Christmas in Congo

Ethiopian AirStepping off the plane in Addis Ababa, I can close my eyes and imagine I am on the science fiction planet Dune. Not because Ethiopia is a desert, far from it, but because the air smells of dust and spice. I arrive to greet the late dawn–the air beyond the cabin doors is cool and relieving, an open quality I missed for the last 8 hours of flight.

In this Ethiopian capitol airport the prayer room with its colorful rugs is quite busy–as is the glass smoking box nearby. In Frankfurt, Germany, this room was dubbed the Camel Box. I have a terrible headache and think sleep would help except this is a sinus headache. A headache is nothing considering the checkpoint is scanning for possible ebola.

The lady who sat next to me on the plane was surprised to see every disembarking passenger getting their fever checked. Two women in medical masks performed this duty; one with a thermometer that touches your forehead, the other with a large beam scanner that sat 4 feet away and looked like a massive radar gun. What is the speed limit in the airport.

You’d think people would go toward the one that hasn’t touched a thousand faces this morning. They don’t. Maybe because the other one looks intimidating and more nurse/security in nature. Although my flight was terribly hot, no fever registers and I am waved through where I will anxiously await the arrival of my niece.


Kristin King is a writer, publisher and president of Future Hope Africa, a non-profit dedicated to encouraging children and families in Africa through education, opportunity, and by the grace of God.


Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Christmas


On Christmas

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Wishing you joy,


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Posted by on December 24, 2014 in Christmas


Holland Expat – First Christmas

Den Haag Christmas Market Photo © Kristine Noel Photography.

Den Haag Christmas Market Photo © Kristine Noel Photography.

We celebrated Christmas early fulfilling a long-standing childhood dream of getting into those packages early. It was Sunday, December 21st. The small stack of presents under the 3 foot table-top tree beckoned, “Today is the day. Mysteries will be revealed.”

At church that morning we sat as a family listening to the continuing sermon series on Luke which reached Luke 2:

Now it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled….she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger….[to shepherds] And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people; for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord….

Near The Hague this Christmas?  Visit our church for Christmas morning service on the 25th.

Near The Hague this Christmas? Visit our church for Christmas morning service on the 25th.

The points of the sermon were: 1) Jesus came for all (people), 2) Jesus is the Savior, and 3) Jesus is God with us. There were good highlights brought out and discussed of this scripture which is so familiar to me as I’ve heard several times every Christmas since I was a small child visiting my Grandy in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a sub-point that hit me hard with a life lesson on God. Perhaps I’ll blog about that another time.

After service, my family gathered for prayer with the Pastor and a recent university graduate who is headed home to Zambia for Christmas, to job hunt, and be with family. Then we were off to our house for a special lunch, opening packages, family time and a great feast in the evening.

So why all the change in schedule? the prayer? the gifts early? This actually won’t be my first Christmas in Holland because I’m headed to Africa. It will be a Congo Christmas for me this year. For the first time I will visit our mission (Future Hope Africa) in the heart of Africa–and to accommodate my niece joining me we are both leaving before Christmas, she from Kentucky, and I from Amsterdam. We will meet on connecting flights in Addis Ababa and go forth together.

Will you join us? In your thoughts, prayers, and in this blog? You and yours are welcome–to our Congo Christmas.


Kristin King is an author, publisher and President of Future Hope Africa.

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On Christmas – To the Cains

To the Cains from the Kings

To the Cain’s from the King’s

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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Christmas


Tis the Season Reading: Poem 4 Gifts

Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holidays are meant to be special, and one thing I like about my Maryland Writers Association critique group is that I get to see what folks creative with words do for these special events. For instance, our group once edited a contract with the devil for a soul.  That writer was going to a party as Satan and carrying a quite detailed, LOL funny, and a touch scary contract. Yikes!


As our December meeting, one participant brought us each a Christmas Tree cookie from Panera’s (yum!) to which she attached a poem about the season. Her name is Brenda Elmore, a poet, humorist, and essayist whose work you might catch in Baltimore/Annapolis area publications. She graciously allowed me to share the poem with you (i.e. used by permission).


Christmas © Copyright 2013 by Brenda Elmore.


It’s always the same thing, every single d***ed year;

I think Christmas is far off, then it’s suddenly here!

And nothing is done, not the shopping, the baking,

the cards, nor the wrappings, the cleaning! It’s taking

me all by surprise though I knew it was coming,

an I’m panicked and stressed, yet I find myself humming.

It’s the carols, the music that soothes as it chimes

through my heart, through my mind–

How I love Christmas time!

Special thanks to Brenda and to all my writers group pals. You guys keep me going and improving in terms of writing, editing, and reading for skill all year round. I hope my input is of benefit to you as well.




Kristin King is a member of The Maryland Writers Association and the Romance Writers of America. Her imprint Three Kings Publishing can be found here. Three Kings is a Mom & Pop publisher of Christian writers (not necessarily Christian books).


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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Christmas, Freebies Alert


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