Monday, December 6, 2010

Walking on rooftops

Hush.. be quiet! Do you hear the noise on the roof?
Is that the click clack sound of horseshoes above our heads? Could it be???

On December 6, Christians celebrate Saint Nicholas, who was a Greek Bishop in Turkey and later became a saint. He had the reputation for secret gift-giving and was a children's friend. He would put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

Nowadays, we still celebrate his memory. Children are totally excited about this event and many days in advance, they write letters to Saint Nicholas, to let him know about their wishes. They send their letters to Spain, the place where Saint Nicholas is living. That's where the parents come in. They make sure some of the wishes are fulfilled. That is if the children behave well. If they don't, they risk being captured in the jute bag of Black Pete (Zwarte Piet), the helper of Saint Nicholas. That rarely happens, but it does scare the kids and it helps them behave better. Some families choose to hire someone dressed up as the holy saint, to come to their house and hand over the presents and the candy to the children. The white bearded saint wears a long white dress, a ruby red mantle and of course his red miter. He holds a golden crosier and has several ways to travel through the country. Sometimes he comes by steamboat, some years he rides his horse.

His Dutch name is Sinterklaas. Does it ring a bell when you think of Santa Claus? Exactly, that's where the name Santa Claus is derived from. Sinterklaas is not the person you expect around Christmas. Sinterklaas comes on December 5 in Holland and then crosses the border to Belgium on December 6. I wonder what our children will have written in their letter to the holy man this year..

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