Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Dutch family holiday: Sinterklaas

All the way from Spain on a 15-foot dinghy, it's Sinterklaas!

Accompanied by Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas made his grand entance to Statia on a dinghy at the harbor, then took a tour through the town in the bed of a pickup.

To be honest, it was sheer conincidence that we saw him arrive that day as we jumped off the dock. We saw a little boat floating through and Ed told Charles that there was a "party" boat. I looked and saw a strange figure at the bow of the boat, standing in a red robe and cheap paper-bishop hat, with a staff and a gaze at the horizon like a noble sailor chancing upon land after months at sea. I remembered reading about him and looked towards the harbor where there were a few dozen children gathered and the black Ford "horse". We quickly jumped up and followed the party.
It was a parade which lead to a party with presents, a pinata (which they held up to show everyone, then simply put it away and threw candy out to the kids), cake and donuts and bitterball, croquette, juice boxes ( we picked up at least 398,944 of them thrown on the ground). Then they gave all the kids presents and played loud Caribbean -beat Christmas carols for hours.

For those of you who don't remember learning about this holdiay in the fourth-grade, this is the most popular Dutch holiday of all. Here are some interesting facts:
  • Celebrated on the 5th of December
  • All about the presents he distributes!
  • Average Dutch household spends 130 euro on Sinterklaas gifts
  • Like Santa, Sinterklaas is good to good children and strict to the naughty
  • Children leave a shoe by the chimney with a carrot for the horse in it
  • According to tradition, he rides over housetops with the grey horse and drops gifts through the chimney into the shoes
  • He leaves chocolate letters and cookies for the children
  • He leaves unusual gifts for the adults including humorous poems making gentle fun of each other and wrapped in very unusual ways

Zwarte Piet getting the kinderen ready to chase him. Attention, everyone, Please! Piet was a real jokester.

So who was Zwarte Piet (Black Peter)?

  • Based on exotically dressed servants from the Dutch colonies
  • He guides Sinterklaas' horse through the streets of the Netherlands (rides in the flatbed with him in the Caribbean I guess)
  • Carries a burlap bag and chases children through the streets, attempting to stuff them inside
  • Tradition has it that he takes the naughty children back to Spain in the bag
  • Children love running from him and after him!
  • As the Netherlands became more multicultural, it became a moral dilemma for the Dutch, but politically correct experiments with blue, white, and even multi-colored Pieten have been unsuccessful. Tradition remains strong!

Charles, recovering from facial injuries, and friendZwarte Piet getting ready to run from the children. On the broken up rough concrete streets, there were more than a few tripping injuries. This game Never EVER would have happened in the sue-happy streets of the USA.

I am not sure that the formal and traditional Netherlands Sinterklaas and Zwatre Piet do the Electric Slide through the streets either.

Our Caribbean Piet, is noted, doesn't really look much like the Dutch Piet. Check out the high top Nikes, gold jewelry, and sunglasses, and MJ glove...

My favorite Carribean twist to the whole thing: Sinterklaas painted his face that politically correct?

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