Sunday, 21 November 2010

To Sint or not to Sint?

We're almost in December, last month of the year, month of Christmas and New Year Eve (and my birthday, yay!) Being the international family that we are, it's also the month for Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas is celebrated mostly in Flemish and Ducth areas of influence. Which is an elegant way of saying part of northeast France and also Surinam . Anyway, this chap Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicolas, or Sint , is clearly the "inspiration" for the Santa Claus figure, they bear an uncanny resemblance, bar the stuffy fur-trimmed suit that Santa Claus wears courtesy of some people in advertising. 

I won't bother you with all the details of the Sint's figure (you have Wikipedia for that) Main difference is that the Belgo/Dutch "Sint" comes either on the eve of the 5th December or the morning on the 6th (for the Dutch is on the 5th, for the Belgians on the 6th). When I first arrive in Belgium and heard about Sinterklaas, my first thought was this coming on the 6th of December and then the coming 'again' of Santa Claus on the 24th was a bit of an overload of presents and downright confusing for kids. Turns out, the two are not equally celebrated, with the Sint amply kicking Santa's red derriere in the popularity polls in Belgium and Nederlands. Children in Belgium tend to get the most important present through the Sint and then something a bit more restrained on Christmas Eve. Also, to my knowledge, the Sinterklaas celebration is a nuclear family only business (mum, dad and children at home) while Christmas is really the getting together of the extended family thing.

Anyway, this whole explanation comes because I am wondering, besides getting Bibu the toy yellow excavator of his dreams as a present from the Sint, if we should do the whole bells and whistles proper celebration and ask him to put his shoes out and leave food for Sint's horse the eve of the 5th, as most kids do in Belgium, or not. I never really believed in Santa Claus, but I did believe in the Three Kings that come in January (oh, I've forgotten about those) and I guess this is all part of his culture, and he has two sets of celebrations to benefit from. It's just that it bothers me quite a lot that Christmas everywhere in the world tends to be only about presents and bearded fat men in ridiculous red suits and zilch about the birth of Jesus and all that. Not that I am the most religious person in the world, far from it, but I wonder what would most kids say if asked what do we actually celebrate in Christmas..........


  1. Ciao Linda,

    As ex- expat kid and child of a mixed marriage; my parent made me believe that Sinterklaas, Santa Clause, NiƱo Jesus (24/12), los reyes magos (the 3 wise man) and the Easter bunnies; had made a pact. They would devide the world in to regions and split these regions between themselves. Kids would only have the right to receive max twice a year a present from them.

  2. Ha! Natalia, well now that's a great logic! We"ve decided to have the Sint thing, but Bibu is already confusing Sinterklaas with "Papa Noel". Well, technically they are the same, in fact...Mmmm......... I'm confused now... :-)