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Sinterklaas

This evening, Sinterklaas will pass by a lot of children to give presents. Maybe, if you try to pronounce his name, you notice it's very similar to Santa Claus. Well, that's right, the American Santa Claus is based on the Dutch Sinterklaas. At least his name. And December 6th is his name day.

He looks a bit different, wearing a mitre instead of a cap, but he does some equal things.

He arrived some weeks ago with his steam boat from Spain, since that day, he has been listening to children over the entire country. He asks what children want, and checks in his book to see if they have been good. On the night of December 5th to 6th, he will ride his horse over all the roofs in the country, and give presents in the houses where good children live.

He's aided by his servants, who are called "Black Pete". The Black Petes go down the chimneys of all houses with children, and deliver presents. That's also the reason they are black, from the soot in the chimneys.

As the saint is often distracted (he's also over 600 years old), the Petes need to help him quite often.

Kids who want presents are warned, they need to place their shoes in front of the chimney. And if children also give a present back to the saint (like a carrot or a sugar for the horse, or a beer for the saint and his Petes - he's in Belgium after all) the saint may even give the children more presents.

When the saint leaves, it's time to place the Christmas tree.

#sinterklaas  
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Dafydd Young's profile photoSander Deryckere's profile photoMatt Spaanem (Mutedog)'s profile photoKatherine Noyes's profile photo
12 comments
 
Why are they black before they get here?
 
From last year, after doing at 1 million chimneys, you can't wash it off that easily.

I know it's controversial in the Netherlands, because in origin, it were black people, but the story was changed. But it's not controversial in Belgium strange enough. There were 4 complaints about Pete being black last year, of the 4000 complaints about racism in total.
 
+Sander Deryckere My parents are both from Holland.  Sadly, I never learned to speak Dutch (just a few food words), but I still keep up the tradition for my kids.
 
There are even less complaints in Belgium. 2 of 4000 according to this: http://www.nieuwsblad.be/article/detail.aspx?articleid=DMF20121203_065 (Dutch)
And according to the Standaard, it doesn't even have a racist background, people just think it's racist because they associate black with racism: http://www.standaard.be/artikel/detail.aspx?artikelid=DMF20121204_00390860

+Katherine Noyes, can you talk to your grandparents when you don't speak Dutch? I know my grandparents don't understand English.
 
+Sander Deryckere Actually mine all spoke English (they are gone now). One set came to the U.S. and one to Canada. I definitely heard a lot of Dutch growing up, however -- still love the sound of it.
 
If they are from Holland, you probably won't like my accent, a lot of Dutch think it's incomprehensible ;)

Like we don't use the typical Dutch 'g'-sound, or the big amount of Dutch diphthongs.

My parents once came in a pub in Holland, and the barkeeper started talking German to them, as he thought they weren't native Dutch speakers. So different it is.
 
Yep, a lot of the thoughts comes from pagan feasts, that's why I mentioned that at least the name comes from Dutch. Other stuff are just combined from other religions. We didn't invent that person.

We also have Christmas btw, but it's without a visit from Santa. And our Sinterklaas is still tall, just like Santa before the Coca Cola makeover.

Giving presents through or at a chimney would also be related to sacrificing things in a fire.
 
my family does St. Nick's day/night on the 5th as well as Santa coming on Christmas, syncretism FTW
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