And to a kid who'd never been out of Ireland, Holland really was different.
But this time instead of being struck by differences I was intensely aware of similarities.
Here in Ireland the winter festival's called Samhain, the first season of the Celtic calendar year.
December's the second month of Samhain, the month when the Christian image of the child Jesus, born to bring light to the world, echoes the bonfires lit by the Celts to express confidence in the return of spring.
From the first introduction of Christianity to Europe, elements of older myths and legends have been blended with stories of Christian saints. It was one way of making the new religion acceptable and accessible. And it's the reason why the story of St. Nicholas, who became Sinterklaas - and then, in the US and elsewhere, Santa Claus - resonates with echoes of the pagan god Wodan.
I love the thought that those links exist and have lasted through millennia across continents, echoing images, ideas and memories, and expressing shared responses to the changing seasons. I love the exuberant optimism implied in lighting fires and feasting in times of scarcity and darkness.
And I've just discovered a link I didn't know of before, between Holland and Corca Dhuibhne.
One of the earliest versions we have of it is De Reis van Sint Brandaen, written in twelfth century Dutch.
And last weekend I discovered that one of the earliest versions of the legend of St. Nicholas is preserved in De Reis van Sint Brandaen.
Shared images, ideas and memories echoed across countries, continents and millennia.