Friday, November 20, 2009

The Arrival parade of SinterKlaas and Dutch christmas traditions

Culture Shock Alert! Read this first!  

How the Dutch celebrate Christmas....

Picture this, you wake up one morning to see that the street in front of your apartment is closed off, due to a parade! Oh how exciting, a parade right out your kitchen window.  What holiday could this be?   Well, a few hours later, our questions were answered.  Well, sort of. Here is what we learned:

Santa in the Netherlands is not the Santa we know and love.  He is SinterKlaas, and he looks and wears clothing that is IDENTICAL to the Roman Catholic Pope.  We’re talking tall, white, and skinny, with a tall red hat.

 No big Christmas morning blow-out under the tree.  Instead, only one present a day, which you get in your shoes.  You get the present by putting a carrot and sugar cube in your shoes the night before.

 No Reindeer. Just a single, white horse that SinterKlaas rides around on.  Oh, and the horse can’t fly, he jumps around on the roof tops. (This makes sense, being that the Dutch architecture has all the roofs connecting)

No Santa’s little elves living on the North Pole.  Instead, he as an army of “ Zwarte Piers” aka Black Peters, who have a gigantic workshop in Spain, where they make the presents. 

Each year, the SinterKlaas and his Black Peters arrive in Holland via a big white boat to deliver the toys.  Each city has their own SinterKlaas arrival celebration, where children come and watch the boat come into port.  Sinter gets off and immediately mounts a horse and parades down the streets after the Peters.

Oh, and if you are naughty, you don’t get a lump of get kidnapped by the Black Peter, and are forced to go back with him to Spain. OH NO!

We couldn’t believe it! In America, our traditions are WAY different. I guess since Holland didn’t have that major brush with slavery, and all baggage that came with it, they are still using the black peters (and loving it.)  Literally 500 Dutch people painted their skin black and paraded down the street!  This would never go down in the US of A.  What a Cultural difference!  Very very interesting.


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