Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sinterklaas

Readers of this blog probably already know that in Holland one of the most popular celebrations during December month is the one of Sinterklaas. It is celebrated on the 5th of December, but practically during the whole month of November you can already watch TV programmes about him. My children specially like to watch Het Sinter Klaas Journaal (see photo below). The photo is from site www.medianieuwtjes.nl.

Provavelmente os leitores do Brasil e especialmente de Portugal já ouviram dizer que uma das celebraçõees mais famosas na Holanda é a festa de Sinterklaas, tradicionalmente celebrada na noite do 5 de dezembro. Cerca de três semanas antes da data já há muito festejo no país e um dos programas mais populares na TV 'e o "Jornal do Sinter Klaas" com apresentadora, entrevistas, novelinhas e tudo mais. Vejam a foto da apresentadora do tal jornal aí embaixo:

This is at one of the local schools (photo above). It is important to mention that the whole mythology around Sinterklaas in Holland did NOT merge with Christmas. They affirm that the figure of Sinter Klaas was distorted by Americans when they developed the figure of Santa Claus. Santa Claus also exists in Holland during the end of December, they call it with desdain "The Christmas Man" (de Kerst Man) and is ignored by grown ups and children. He is rather an exotic, decorative North American holiday character. Dutch people claim their Sinterklaas is "the real guy"!

When you start searching about Nicholas' life you discover he was a bishop born in Turkey. In the Dutch story he comes from Spain (Madrid, especifically) in a steam boat with his Moorish assistants and lots of presents for Dutch kids. Spanish people and Madrileños living in Holland get very surprised about knowing that, for they have never heard of it. Now, how much of "the real guy" is it ?
Some mothers and I spent a couple of hours during one evening last week busy with decorating the school rooms and common areas. You see the result on the photos of this post. I think one of the moms did it very well on the door above. She quickly made a drawing and then painted the glass (above) while other moms were hanging fake presents from the ceiling or wraping real presents from the school for the children.

And this is mischievous Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). In old stories of Sinterklaas from the XIX century he is presented as a Moor from south Europe, with Middle Ages clothes. Later he acquired an African appearance. He is NOT a slave NOR a servant, he is rather an employee. It is impossible for Sinterklaas to deliver all little presents to all children, he is very old therefore he needs lots of help with that.




Others say that Zwarte Piet is black because he has to go into chimneys in order to bring presents.

A figura nas fotos acima e' o Pedro Negro (em holandes "Zwarte Piet). Em estorias holandesas do seculo XIX ele era descrito como um personagem do sul da Europa, um mouro. Mais tarde passou a ser descrito como um africano com roupas medievais. Ele e' alegre, atrapalhado e trabalha para o S. Nicolau. Outros dizem que o Zwarte Piet se chama assim porque tem que descer pela chaminé com os presentinhos e por isso fica com a cara suja de fuligem.
A colleague of mine, also Brazilian, once told me he found (and still finds) the whole story and symbols very weird. Years, many years ago he had just arrived in Holland, never had heard of St. Klaas or Black Peter and was riding a bike in Amsterdam. He suddenly spotted a bunch of flashy dressed guys who were doing crazy in the streets: de Black Peter (s). He got so surprised, that he crashed with his bike and all into two of them. He ended up spending that evening in the hospital. This colleague of mine has since then acquired an absolute aversion to Black Peters.
And of course you have to place in your shoes also some carrots for Sinterklaas' horse: Amerigo. Dutch parents must check whether their (older) children have made some marks in the carrots. They will do it in order to check later whether the carrots were put back into the fridge.

Photo above: Amerigo, Sinterklaas and a Zwarte Piet. And: no, they do not arrive in Holland in a red car. They arrive in a steam boat all the way from Spain, remember ? If you wish to know more about the very controversial character of Black Peter click here. What I find curious is that the people playing Zwarte Piet do not make their faces just "dirty". They are blue eyed people with super black faces and red, exaggerated lips. It was a bit of cultural shock for me. Many foreigners of all ethnicities living in Holland detest the symbologies of Sinter Klaas and Zwarte Piet. I wonder what Americans people think of all that !
And if you a bad boy or girl during the year... "Traditionally, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten would stuff the child in a sack and threaten to beat it with a broom or a stick. Then all the naughty children, in sacks, were said to be taken back with Sinterklaas to Spain (it is believed that Sinterklaas comes from Spain, where he returns at the end of the night)." Wish to know more about Sinter Klaas ? Click then here for the whole story on Wikipedia.

Yes, my little girl can also make some pics with her fake camera made in China !
Essa é a minha baixinha. Como eu estou sempre fazendo fotos, ela anda tirando umas fotos minhas com a camera de plástico dela, made in China. Fofa, fofa, muito fofa. Espero que tenham gostado da explicação rasteira sobre a celebração do Sinter Klaas. Acho que apesar das origens da estória se perderem no passado, a celebração tenta resgatar uma parte do mito. E é mais original que o Papai Noel gorducho de shopping center, pura invencionice de americanos. Nos próximos posts tem muito mais de St. Klaas nas vitrines de pastelarias e tortas, aguardem.

10 comments:

Jaboticaba Preta said...

Coitado do teu amigo! kkkk Eu também tenho medo do Zwarte Piet :P

amei teu blog.

Beijocas da Jaboticaba

Leti Locatelli said...

Well, i must say that i love your posts! Your blog is very informative, for me, and argentine girl deeply in love with a dutch guy. I hope next year i will be able to experience Sinterklass "live".
Cariños desde Buenos Aires, Leti

Ann Moeller said...

Very interesting tradition! Fantastic how close and so far apart we are at the same time in Europe, when comparing traditions and stories! There is no such thing like that over here in England and Father Xmas is the main guy :)
Love the pics...well done mums!!
x

Anita said...

Leti: I LOOOOOVE to hear that ! My blog is very visited by few place comments. And Dutch guys are the best, really ! I cannot find anymore a book I had: "De Mannen van Nederland", written by a very humourou French journalist. She interviewed more than 30 foreign women about different aspects of the male cloggie. Conclusion: they are romantic types in their very peculiar way. Thumbs up ! When you are in Holland we have to meet each other, so keep tuned ! Abrazos.

Lu_Russa said...

oi querida, tudo bem ??

Então, eu passarei o reveillon aí em Amsterdam e estarei sozinha.

Vc teria alguma dica de lugar onde ir nesse dia ? ( na véspera para celebrar )

bjos

LuRussa

Anita said...

Gente bronzeada que mora em Amsterdam: algum conselho/dica pra Lu ?
Readers: any tips for Oud en Nieuw in A'dam ?

by Faby said...

Adorei! Os saquinhos lá de cima são lindos e a pequena futura fotografa arrasou!

Glenda Dimuro said...

Oi Anita!
Nós do Brasil com Z http://brasilcomz.wordpress.com estamos buscando novos colaboradores!

Seu blog é muito interessante e acho que podes ter muitas coisas para contar lá no Brasil com Z, que fala de experièncias de brasileiros espalhados pelo mundo!

Que achas? Se estiveres afim de participar me escreve para glenda.dimuro@gmail.com

Abração!

Anonymous said...

Lu Russa: show do Marco Borsato na Dam Square.

TravellingChitalian said...

Thank you for your post! I have spent a lot of time in Holland, growing up, as my mother has some family there. I never knew the history of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, beyond a vague notion, so this is helpful! I really enjoyed your post.