Last year on the day of Lichtjesavond, I took a terrible fall that I can still feel in my tailbone when I remember the incident. It involved some icy cobblestones, shoes without grippy bottoms, the shattering of lovely handmade pottery I had just bought as a Christmas gift for my father-in-law, and a lot of people asking me in Dutch if I was all right.
All that to say, I enjoyed Lichtjesavond last year, but since I couldn’t walk very well, we only walked from our house to the Nieuwe Kerk and back. This year we had a much more thorough experience and I can honestly say this is one of my favorite Delft experiences of the year.
Lichtjesavond (not unique to Delft as a tradition) is the night when the town Christmas tree is lit (see above). The historic city center is decorated with lights in many other ways, and there are outdoor musical performances as well as a crafty market. (This was a way more interesting market, in my opinion, than the kind of antiques-road-show-yard-sale market that goes on every Saturday in Delft during the summer.) And one of the minor but really cool details of this event is that both the Nieuwe and Oude Kerken open their main doors. You can visit the New and Old Churches any time, but you won’t enter by the main doors. They are massive and only opened for ceremonial occasions. At the Nieuwe Kerk, you normally enter via the gift shop. But on Lichtjesavond they fling those huge doors open, and entry is also free.
This (above) is inside the New Church, which seemed more festively decorated in 2010, but which we enjoyed visiting all the same. A choir was taking advantage of the lovely acoustics. (Note the burial monument of Willem of Orange in the back of the photo.)
Colored floodlights illuminated many of the old buildings. Right before I took this photo, the local running club even ran by carrying flaming torches. I had been in the process of buying some handspun wool for a knitting project and was too slow on the draw to get a photo of the athletic festivity.
Some of the local businesses set up stands outside their shops. Outside one of the butchers (above), you could get a hot ham sandwich on a roll. I so wished I hadn’t had dinner!
As has so often been the case here lately, the weather began to turn to rain and after a couple hours outside we began to wander home. Our last street was Oude Delft, lit by these massive baskets of burning wood suspended over the canal. I felt like I’d gone back into the Middle Ages as I walked past these. The evening was glorious, and as much as we wish we were going to the States for Christmas this year, we found ourselves reflecting on what our families could see if they could only come here.