Getting together over a plate of ‘hotchpotch’

The kitchen smells of tomato soup. Water and bread are served on the festively decorated tables. Visitors are welcomed at the front door. All residents of the Statenkwartier have been invited for the Christmas dinner at Lux ad Mosam’s student association building. More important than the free food is the connection between students and residents.

Meyke Houben (tekst) Philip Driessen (fotografie)

They’re sometimes viewed as yet another student association. “We’re looking for a deeper meaning at Lux ad Mosam though,” assessor Dieuwke Haverlach explains. “We want to contribute to society and enjoy reaching out to the world. Love for our neighbours is important to us.” Faith is a source of inspiration to the members. You cannot miss the following verse from Jeremiah on the stairs: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Cooking for residents

Keeping that thought in mind, the student association came up with the idea to host a Christmas dinner for residents. Everyone received an invitation through flyers and posters, including the clients from the Salvation Army’s shelter. Dieuwke: “Our neighbourhood is very diverse. Wealthy people live here, as well as less wealthy people. We enjoy meeting them.” The dinner is paid for by the student association and a committee of first year members is responsible for the organisation and food preparation. “It takes some improvisation,” Dieuwke laughs. “All cooking hobs we could find are in use, including those in the student housing above our sorority house.”

This year guests can choose between two types of soup as their appetiser. Main courses are hotchpotch, spaghetti and rice. A dessert afterwards completes the meal. Visitor Jos Nelissen, who attends the dinner with his wife, says the food is not their primary reason to attend. “We’ve been living in this neighbourhood for two years and we enjoy meeting the students. Our relationship is good, there are no inconveniences. Maybe it’s because my wife is in contact with the management. Lux ad Mosam is smaller and a different student association than Circumflex, for example. In our experience, you can reason very well with the students. We live next to students who often play the piano, sometimes until late into the evening and even very loudly. There’s no more piano playing after 10 PM now that we’ve talked to the students.

Christmas spirit

In the meantime the area is filled with Lux ad Mosam-members and visitors from outside. There is a short prayer before the buffet is opened. Dieuwke: “As an association we carry out the Christian Christmas spirit, but everyone is free to join in prayer or not. Meeting each other is this dinner’s primary purpose. The people attending enjoy connecting with the students, but also use the opportunity to catch up with each other.”

The Christmas dinner has become a tradition over time. It contributes to mutual understanding, Dieuwke has noticed. “I love listening to the residents’ stories about their neighbourhood myself. They are open about what happens in their homes, about both the good and the bad memories. Because of the Christmas dinner, we now recognise each other when we cross paths on the street. Sometimes we bond, or the residents readjust their opinions about students, for example. As long as we achieve that, we’ll continue to do this.”

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