The first time I heard Sinter Klaas i assumed that it was just the Dutch way of saying Santa Claus, after all they sound quite similar when spoken aloud, right?
Then, when present exchange happened on December 5 I was very confused - was Santa jet lagged? Maybe had too much mulled wine? Or maybe he was just becoming too old and forgot that it was meant to arrive 20 days later?
Jokes apart, I soon discovered that sinta Klaas was not Santa Claus in disguise but was instead saint niklaas - or better san Nicola. The patron saint of children. Makes sense that he is the one bringing presents, right?
According to Wikipedia
‘Sinterklaas is based on the historical figure of Saint Nicholas (270–343), a Greek bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey. He is depicted as an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop's alb and sometimes red stola, dons a red mitre and ruby ring, and holds a gold-coloured crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd's staff with a fancy curled top. He traditionally rides a white horse. In the Netherlands, the horse is called Amerigo, and in Belgium, it is named Slecht Weer Vandaag, meaning "Bad Weather Today".Sinterklaas carries a big, red book in which is written whether each child has been good or naughty in the past year.’
Festivities about sinterklaas actually begin when he arrives from Spain on a boat on November 11, so there is at least a month of ‘pepernoten’, ‘kruidennoten’ and speculoos eating before Christmas even arrives... good, uh! ?
Tradition for sinterklaas, aside for some gift exchanges include the making of a poem and wrapping your gift in a complicated package ‘surprise’. At least there is some creativity to be shown, and I really like that!
Although something else that comes with sintaklaas is zwarte (=black) Pete.. Sinta’s help, who is not an elf or magical creature, as the Santa tradition wants, but a dark coloured man (who might be black because he is a chimney sweeper?) which is bringing some reminders of colonialism and slavery, and every year brings,, together with Christmas, a lot of debates...
Nonetheless, I like that Christmas period is full of different traditions everywhere and we are not only tied up to the ‘norm’ imported from America....
Let’s keep it unique
And I can’t wait for the befana on January 6, let’s hope she remembers I will be in Hong Kong then ....
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