Friday, December 3, 2010

Sinterklaas OR Santa Claus ?

The modern Santa Claus is a combination of a number of stories from a variety of countries.

Santa Claus... a typical American thing, isn't it ? Santa - that's how the name Sint Nikolaas spoken by the Dutch sounded to Americans. The Dutch brag that their Sinterklaas is the original (a-hem, cough, cough, cough!) one, and that the Santa Claus celebrated in the western world is just an invention of  North Americans, vaguely based on their  belief on Sinterklaas. The image of a Santa Claus we see today was indeed invented by Coca-Cola company. From 1931 to 1964 Coca-Cola advertised him delivering toys and/or enjoying a Coke with children who stayed up to greet him.

Santa Claus is basically a summing up of all different legends that used to run around in the Christian Medieval world vaguely based on actual events and a person called Nicholas as viewed by the Dutch - with some touches of paganism too (Northern god Odin has some parallels to Saint Nicholas as well). Whole story in details here.

No... The Dutch Sinterklaas  THE ORIGINAL ONE ? No way ! The Dutch Sinterklaas is a basically a Dutch invention, based on the life of a bishop from Myrna, in Anatolia (central part of Turkey) called Nicholas. He was a benevolent man especially for kids. It is said he fred an Ethiopian slave in a market, who in return started to follow the bishop. End of the story.

It should be the end. But then the Dutch added to it that Sinter comes every year around the end of November (why so early???)  from Madrid (?) in Spain (wasn't him Turkish???) in a steam boat (Are there canals in Spain???) with lots (it was ONE slave in the legend, right ???) of helpers called "the black Peters" (racist???) and that Sint also has a white horse (albino???) called "Amerigo" (amigo spelled wrong???). Argh ! There was a moment that I despised this whole odd story, lying to kids and all the comsummerism behind it. Now I decided to relax and let the kids believe in what they want to believe collectively. Conclusion: the Dutch celebrate the ORIGINAL (their word) Sinterklaas on the 5th of December and then they have a dinner on the 25th (why not the night of 24th ?) of December WITHOUT PRESENTS - just because the rest of the Christian world is celebrating it too. Pffff !

S is for Sint.
Sint and Piet... not to be taken seriously.

I have already blogged about Sinterklaas also here and here.


Invader_Stu said...

I read it was always on Piet until Canada was helping to organise a Sinterklaas celebration just after world war 2 and came up with the idea of multiple Pieten.

Zoe said...

Hi Anita,
I have to disagree with you, there are actually a lot of evidences that the Sinterklaas is the original one, because first, he was made up from a Germanic Pagan God, Wolden, who had also a white horse and was celebrated in December during Winter Solstice. Children used to leave carrots for the horse, wait for gifts and so on. Christian Church replaced all the pagan festivals and god including Wolden, who became Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas for Dutchs, Belgians and Germans.
How this history came to America is simple. The Dutch people colonized part of USA, and this region was called New Amsterdam, but they sold this piece of land to the British, after that the region was called New York. With dutch people, dutch culture was brought to America, including Sinterklaas. And as every history, Sinterklaas was change and adapted. Coca-Cola, as you said, made him more popular. I also was looking for information about Sinterklaas, and this was what I found!

Anita said...

Hi Zoe,
Original ? As you said it yourself Sinterklaas is a fusion of pagan beliefs in Odin + some beliefs vaguely based in the life of Saint Nicholaas.

Amanda said...

this was great --- i love learning about all these different santa/sinta traditions.........and yes, what would the holidays (or retailers) be without massive consumerism?! ;-)