Saturday, 24 November 2007
About a week ago, Sinterklaas arrived in Holland. Since Sinterklaas only comes to Holland (the rest of the world has to do with Santaclaus, who is the poor export version of Sinterklaas), I will explain a bit what this tradition is all about.
It is unclear when this all began, but at least five hundred years ago Sint Nicolaas (his name changed a bit over the years) began visiting Holland. All through the year he lives in Spain, but he celebrates his birthday (December the 5th) here in Holland, giving presents and candy to children. But only if they behaved well all through the year, of course. If you misbehaved, you were taken to Spain and rumour has it that you then end up as an ingredient of next year’s candy.
Initially Sint Nikkerlaas did this all on his own, but a few hundred years ago people began splitting his name up into two personalities: a Saint and a Nick/nigger. This black offspring of Saint Nick is called Zwarte Piet in Dutch, and somewhere in history he became many Zwarte Pieten. Nowadays there are hundreds of them, and they all are personifications of one talent or task. You have one Zwarte Piet for making the lists, one for doing the dishes, one for operating the radar system, etcetera. The whole story has become so ridiculous that no kid over seven no longer takes this crap, even not if they are given huge amounts of presents and candy.
The media has totally taken over this tradition: weeks before Sint Klaas takes the boat to Holland, you have daily (!) television shows in which kids are informed about all the difficulties that he and his sidekicks have to face this year. If the boat isn’t stolen, than the horse of the Saint is, or they get lost, or there is some creep trying to sabotage the party. And while in my days there were still mainly the same traditional songs as there had been for ages, you now have ton loads of new songs, which make the whole tradition even more bizarre than it already was.
Although the whole myth is beyond ridiculous, there is an esoteric meaning to it that little people know of. Sinterklaas is of course the representation of the Soul/Essence/or whatever you call it: the part of us that knows that all Life is One. And the Zwarte Pieten are the parts that make up our mind, our I’s. The real reason why Sint Nicolaas comes here, is to remember us of this Truth. He does this in various ways. For example by giving us the first letter of our name in chocolate. That is where things started to went wrong: our name is the beginning of the end of our connection to the Soul. As soon as a person begins to think he or she is a seperate individual, he or she begins to forget what he or she really is.
By giving us the first letter of our name, Saint Nick invites us to go back to the very beginning and to rewrite the story that we made up of ourselves. Sinterklaas traditionally gives us all kind of other presents too for the same purpose: the word “spekulaas” for example is derived from speculum, which is Latin for mirror.
I will spare you the many other esoteric aspects of this myth. Here is a song from a CD that I, as a lousy father, once bought for my children. It is a musical in which Sinterklaas, who for centuries kept all the names and information of all the children of this planet in his Big Book, switches to a computer administration and then gets a virus that threatens to destroy all data. Even as traditional as I am, I quite like this CD. It is made by a company ( Kiddy Tunes ) that made several other CD’s that found their way in our home. Like the Sprookjes Wonderland CD, that has some Trolls on it doing a great Micheal Jackson rip off. But that is for another time.