The title of this article suggests that it is being published way over date. It's not. Christmas Dinners are a year-round tradition in young, conservative right wing Netherlands. These formal dinners (Kerstdiners in Dutch) are arranged to hook up eligible, young men with well-bred, future desperate housewives.
The Netherlands has the image of a liberal society where coffee shops are as commonplace as Starbucks, and where prostitutes are active and respected members of Parent-Teacher Associations. The truth is that behind this liberal and tolerant facade, Dutch society is fragmented with strict barriers dividing the social pillars.
From the age of ten, future bankers and lawyers start their social careers in sailing camps and on hockey fields, later teaming up in fraternities or sororities at university. Unsurprisingly, participating in these forms of arranged social networking does not in the least place purport to safeguard a future spouse and marital bliss. What’s new? As Jane A put it, “It is a truth universally known that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
The key tradition and a fixture in any sorority girl's calendar are the Christmas Dinners, held all year round. As a matter of course, these Christmas Dinners involve: (i) wining, (ii) dining, in (iii) a glamorous skimpy outfit, preferably with (iv) a trimmed down body to match the dress, and (v) a date - yet without a scandalously drunk geriatric relative in sight.
Unfortunately, participating is not optional. Peer pressure has it that if you and other doubtful sorority members opt out of the dinner, you will deprive others of the once-of-a-life-time opportunity to call that guy they have been secretly admiring from the safe harbour of their Facebook account.
Getting a date is the difficult part.
Alas, chances are that you will have to make last minute calls to complete strangers; worse still, sorority rules mean that you have to pay for your date's dinner as well. Feminism dating avant la lettre.
Although frustrating, expensive and at points embarrassing, old habits die hard. Dutch girls who have not yet lured a future spouse into their Amsterdam canal apartment (or who have lost a few on their way) carry on this horrendous charade well into their late twenties in their relentless pursuit to find their Mr Darcy.
Consequently, who to bring to Christmas Dinner remains a daily life dilemma for this Dutch girl at the not-so-tender age of 28.
Luckily, being confined to conservative liberal roots will usually mean that your family is in the game as well. My older sister took the liberty of fixing me up with an eligible young bachelor from her own “frat.net” who fits the essential requirements: tall, more than solvent, and with a handful of friends to match the other single suckers from my group. I can already smell the Raclette cheese, when we set out in our Volvo station wagon for group skiing holidays together, kids and complementary Labrador in the back. Sturdy, stable, and somewhat boring.
“It’s more than I engage for, I assure you.” (Mr Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, p. 6)