Thursday, 2 December 2010

Sinterwho ?


As I said in my last post , Dutch children get their presents , not from Santa Claus on the 25th , but from Sinterklaas on the evening of the 5th and one of you wanted to know more .
St Nicolaas , bishop of Myra in the 3rd century , had a reputation for the secret giving of gifts , maybe most notably to the daughters of a very poor man who couldn't give them doweries without which their futures were bleak . He is the patron saint of children and also of New Amsterdam , or New York .

Sometime in the 19th century , when Christmas was acquiring new traditions such as Christmas trees , Sinterklaas and his black page boy became the stars of the winter celebration in Holland and Belgium . They arrive in Holland from Spain every year in a steamboat and spend a week or two , before the feast , dropping chocolate coins in childrens' shoes , which are carefully left by the fire overnight , often with a carrot for the Saint's horse .

The page boy became Zwarte Piet , a mischevious helper in the bringing of presents to every child . He wears brightly coloured knickerbockers , a ruff , gold earings and a cap with a feather . Traditionally children who dressed up as him blacked their faces too , but that's becoming less common .

This year at work , we have a rather fetching wooden steamboat with the whole cast . Today , as we sat round the table eating a snack , the children took it in turns to pick out a figure and say something about it .
When we got to the Saint's horse , the little girl knew all about him . His name ( Americo ) , his preference for carrots and his colour but was stumped when it came to the markings on his coat .
And then it came to her .
So what were the darker marks ?

"Chickenpox !! "


Rattling On said...

It was me that wanted to know. Thanks for the explanation I now know why the children wear the big earrings as well!
This is why I love blogs- finding out all manner of interesting nuggets from all over the world.
Funny how all the Christmas stories are basically the same.

mountainear said...

Don't we take it for granted that our traditions are the only ones when all over the world are variations on a theme. That was fascinating. More please!

Kate on Clinton said...

Thank you! I had heard something about this tradition, but didn't realize this was in place of Christmas. So nice to see the traditions hold and there hasn't been any push by advertising gurus to put your country in sync with the rest of Europe's gift-giving schedule.
And I had no idea that St. Nicholaas is the patron saint of my city! But a quick google check revealed "Mario" is the patron saint of Brooklyn..hhhmm.

Friko said...

Sintrklaas and St Nikolaus are one and the same yet still very different. And black pete and Knecht Ruprecht are certainly not from the same story. He is the one n the German celebration who brought the switch to threaten naughty children.

Nikolaus is still very much alive in Germany although he has had to take a backseat in the Christmas present bringing stakes. Do Dutch children still put out Klompen as receptacles for the gifts?

Planet Penny said...

Lovely to find out about all the different traditions, and spotty horses! Hope your own bugs have gone by now too, Penny x