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The Christmas Museum
As our Bad Taste correspondent, Cash Peters has traveled places most of us would never dare...a stripper museum, freak animal farm...he's explored the world of medical oddities for the sole purpose of informing you, our listeners with good taste, of what you're not missing. But it wasn't until Cash ventured into the dark world of Christmas ornaments that we really understood just how far this man will go.

Bad Taste Tour: The Christmas Museum
by Cash Peters

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It's true, I swear. There's a museum in Amsterdam completely devoted to Christmas, but try finding it. Even tour guides have no clue.

Tour Guide: "The Christmas Museum?

Cash: "Yeah."

Tour Guide: "The Christmas?"

Cash: "Museum."

Tour Guide: "Yeah, but not a Christmas. The Christmas, with the...December. The Christmas."

Cash: "Yeah."

Tour Guide: "I've never heard of the Christmas Museum."

Cash: "Well, evidently not. But there is one."

Tour Guide: "No there isn't."

But yeah, there is. Really. So I asked someone who was sure to know where it was: Amsterdam's head of tourism, Els Wamsleeker.

Els Wamsleeker: "A Christmas Museum? I don't think it's on the official museum list. [Laughs] I wish I had more time to visit all these places, but I..."

Cash: "Doesn't sound like you've missed very much."


Els Wamsleeker there. Anyway, eventually I found the place. Astonishingly, after all that, it's right in the center of town, near the station. I also found out why no one knows anything about the Christmas Museum. That's because...it's actually a gift shop that calls itself a museum.

Astrid Scholler: "Yes, it a museum, but we sell stuff. A lot of Christmas stuff. We have 14,000 articles, so there is a lot of stuff here."

Mmm...some of it dating back as far as...ooh, 1997. That's Astrid Scholler, the manager. For the past 14 years, and with the help of her cheerful, if not clinically insane, staff, Astrid's built up a shopper's paradise here. Five floors of musical Christmas trees and teddy bears, singing penguins and angel-shaped ashtrays, and a load other quality merchandise you could happily live without, especially at Christmas.

Astrid: "The first year everyone tells me you're crazy, what are you doing, this is crazy."

Cash: "You just came out of the institution, they're telling you you're crazy, and you set up a Christmas shop."

Scholler: [Laughs] "Yes."

Cash: "Do your counselors know you're doing this?"

Scholler: "No, no, that's not..." [Laughs]

Cash: "When you were doing your business plan for the bank and said 'We're going to open up a shop,' they must have said, 'Excuse me, screwy lady, but you're not going to sell anything between January and December.'"

Scholler: [Laughter] "Yeah. Okay. They tell me, but, well, we wanted to try it and..."

Cash: "You proved them wrong."

She did. Sales hit a peak in August, apparently. But as you might expect, around Christmastime, the museum is a winter wonderland, with elves and snow-covered trees and carol singers. For the rest of the year, though...well, it's a winter wonderland, with elves and snow-covered trees and carol singers. It wears you out. But they do give tours. So why not come with me now on a magical whirlwind journey through Amsterdam's Christmas Museum (but really it's a shop).

Cash: "This is the candle area?"

Astrid: "This is the candle area, yes." And that is the ugliest floor we have. So, you know..."

Cash: "Well, thank God we started here, then."

Cash: "Okay, so now what's this area?"

Astrid: "Okay, these are merry bears."

Cash: "And what's merry about them?"

Astrid: "I don't know."

Cash: "I'd be quite miserable if I'd been here all year. I'm quite depressed now and I've only been here a quarter of an hour."

Cash: "So here's a woman lying in a..."

Astrid: "In a, in a feathered..."

Cash: "...whatever it is, an ashtray."

Astrid: "But you can lay your spoon when you're cooking. Yes. You can put it in here."

Cash: "My spoon when I'm cooking?"

Astrid: [Laughs] "The price is very high, so I don't know if you want to use it for that."

Cash: "So for about $40 I can buy something to put my spoon in while I'm cooking?"

Astrid: [Laughing] "Yes."

Cash: "What great value."

Cash: "Oh, there's a grotto at the end. Move on, move on, move up. You're in my way. Oh dear. Oh dear, what is this?"

Astrid: "Oh, dear, oh dear."

Cash: "You've got a manger."

Astrid: "Yes."

Cash: "You've got seven shepherds and fourteen wise men."

Astrid: "No, I count three wise men. One, two, three. And there is, um..."

Cash: "There's some guy with a stick."

Astrid [Laughing]: "Some guy with a stick."

Cash: "Mary...is the size...of an opera singer. She's...she looks like a dinghy that's actually just been blown up. Why is she so big?"

Astrid: "She's not fat, she's..."

Cash: "Obese."

Astrid: "She's like...a diva."

[Music box tinkling]

Cash: "Oh..."

Astrid: "Oh, that's nice."

Cash: "That is nice. I think I may throw up."

Astrid: "Oh!"

Just kidding. But only just. It's all so saccharine. Anyway, there are three main things you notice about the museum. First, as you heard, they have a nativity scene featuring the fattest Mary in history. She's sumo-sized. Second, there are no carols playing on the speakers. They've been banned. Instead they play other Christmas-related music, such as... [pop music plays]

Patrizia Duin: "The songs, I'm getting crazy about it. I don't want to hear them any more. I go NUTS!"

Cash: "Oh, you mean things like 'Away in a Manger'?"

Patricia: "Just like, 'Jingle bell, jingle bell...' [Starts to hum, growl and hyperventilate] and I get like ARGH, I want to strangle that CD, you know?" [Laughs]

That's Patrizia Duin, who I guess is a little Santa-phobic. And the third thing you notice about the museum is that, despite the sign saying "Museum," of course, it's not a museum, as every tourist quickly discovers.

Cash: "Why have you come up here?"

Tourist: "To look around."

Cash: "To look around the museum."

Tourist: "Yeah."

Cash: "Really. Did you know it was a museum?"

Tourist: "No."

Patrizia: "It is a museum because everything which is here...well, not everything...85 percent of the whole..."

Cash: "Nothing here is older than three weeks. It's all new."

Astrid: "No, that's not true."

Cash: "How old is the oldest thing you've got here?"

Astrid: "The oldest thing is...ten years old."

And believe me, by their standards, that practically Ming dynasty. But after 14 years, they must be doing something right.

Astrid: "You come in and you feel like a child, because you see all the little things and you want to touch them and you see so much and you feel like a child and then you want to buy everything."

Cash: "At any time during this interview are you going to give me a present?"

Astrid: [Laughs] "Oh, you are a naughty boy."

Cash: "So I guess that means no."

Astrid: "Um, no. I don't think you get a present."

Scrooge had more compassion.

At the Christmas Museum in Amsterdam, I'm Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler.

Astrid: "Oh, you are a naughty boy!"

Cash: "Be quiet!"


Savvy Resources for Christmas:

  • The Christmas Museum is located on Damrak Street in Amsterdam

  • Silent Night, Holy Night Museum
    The museum is at the historical birthplace of Joseph Mohr, creator of the carol Silent night! Holy night!

  • Santa Claus Village
    The North Pole village is full of fun things to do for both kids and parents, including lots of new things this year.

  • Santa's Secret Village at the North Pole
    Chat with elves, get Mrs. Claus' recipes, send a postcard, and much more.

  • Christmas.com
    Info on Christmas around the world, a gift suggestion guide, recipies and an online store.

  • The Holiday Survival Guide
    Gives you great tips and tricks for everything from entertaining guests to budget-balancing... so you just make it through this holiday season with your wits intact!

  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
    Don't miss the TV Holiday Show schedule.

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