I don’t have to tell you that Christmas is almost here as undoubtedly you will have heard everybody else saying: “Can you believe it is almost Christmas?” and “This year has gone so fast!” Yes, every Christmas just seems to come around out of nowhere, boom there it is! Like it’s a surprise and it has never happened before!
Being Dutch, though, I can not get into the Christmas Spirit until after the birthday of St. Nicolas, a well loved tradition celebrated in The Netherlands every year.
Since 1427, St Nicolas has been celebrated in my country, first in the Church and later in every home. Each and every child places their shoe next to the fireplace for St Nic to deliver a little present.
On his actual birthday, which is the 6th of December all children receive gifts. It is the most beautiful tradition The Netherlands has and every year I watch St. Nicolas’ arrival into Holland from Spain on YouTube…..(sometimes with my children hahaha). It is so awesome, I even sing all the songs!
This event called “the arrival of Sinterklaas” is broadcasted on national television for all children to watch, it’s the best show of the year! 😉
You see, unlike Santa, St Nic has a huge steam ship on which he travels from his country Spain all the way to Holland. He has lots of servants who all have individual tasks to make sure everything goes to plan. Guess what, it never goes to plan! His helpers are incredibly funny and cheeky causing lots of trouble!
The boat is called “parcel boat 12” and carries all of the gifts for every child in the country. Once the ship docks, Sinterklaas, as we call him, steps off the boat and jumps on his stunning white horse, called Amerigo and makes his way into the city. In the video below you can see exactly how he does it, every year. Look at all those happy children!
1000’s and 1000’s of children line the streets singing songs to him and calling out his name, while his helpers throw lots of pepernoten (special biscuits) to all the children and hand out small gifts. Just writing this brings back so many precious memories.
Now this is the funny bit and as a child it rather frightened me. Naughty children not only miss out on a present, but they will also get the rod and have to go back to Spain until St Nic’s arrival into Holland the following year! Yikes, I guess that explains why Dutch kids are so well behaved! What an excellent way of disciplinary action! It certainly helped me stay on the straight and narrow. I was petrified of his helpers!!
I am sure you have noticed that Saint Nicolas’ helpers are black. In fact they are called Black Peter or in Dutch; Zwarte Piet. Does that concern you? Don’t worry, you are not the only one. Immigrants in Holland have been trying for a few years now to put an end to this wonderful tradition celebrated for almost 600 years. Almost like all the non-Christian who want to eradicate the Nativity scene from our Christmas celebration. But what is Christmas without Jesus? And what is Sinterklaas without the very Black Peters?
Here is a little history of St Nic;
St. Nic fled to Spain when he was much older, originally he is from Turkisch decent and nationality. He became especially well-known for freeing black-African child slaves giving them employment as servants allowing them to have an independent status, being able to support themselves. It is because of this, St. Nic is celebrated as a ‘childrens friend’ and his black servants are originally first and foremost a symbol against slavery and oppression.
So, there is no better symbol against racism than Saint Nicolas and his Black servants!
As you can see, I can not keep such a beautiful tradition from my children as it gave me some of the most memorable moments of my childhood. Instead of putting up the Christmas tree, we will place our shoes in front of the fire place tonight hoping Sinterklaas has made it to Sydney this year!