(photograph by Gerbren.nl)
Happy Sinterklaas! Or, Happy St. Nicholas day, if you do not speak Dutch. (Really, you don't?)
Sinterklaas holds a fond place in my heart, thank to Petra. The traditional holiday is celebrated by putting your shoes by the fireplace, where Saint Nicolas will fill them with treats. Or in my case, your Dutch roommate wakes up in the early morning to fill your Wooden Shoe Slippers with candy. Isn't she the cutest?
Perhaps the best part of Sinterklaas is the story. Sinterklaas is the former Bishop of Turkey who, though retired, continues to wear his regalia. He takes a boat from Spain to the Netherlands in min-November (he can't lock down a specific date, he's a busy man constrained by the conditions of the sea). He brings with him six to eight black men. (Range is important, you may not need all eight!) If children have been naughty, Sinterklaas and his 6-to-8 friends will kick them and beat them with a stick. If they have been terrible, the child is packed in a sack and taken back to Spain.
David Sedaris, as always, conveys it best:
"While eight flying reindeer are a hard pill to swallow, our Christmas story remains relatively simple. Santa lives with his wife in a remote polar village and spends one night a year traveling around the world. If you're bad, he leaves you coal. If you're good and live in America, he'll give you just about anything you want. We tell our children to be good and send them off to bed, where they lie awake, anticipating their great bounty. A Dutch parent has a decidedly hairier story to relate, telling his children, "Listen, you might want to pack a few of your things together before you go to bed. The former bishop from Turkey will be coming along with six to eight black men. They might put some candy in your shoes, they might stuff you in a sack and take you to Spain, or they might just pretend to kick you. We don't know for sure, but we want you to be prepared."
I recommend all of his works, but you can read "Six to Eight Black Men" here. Audio in three parts, here, here and here.