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      Paul met Debbie

      St. Nicholas – Sinterklaas – Santa Claus

      2nd Advent today. A day of contemplation (again). I am slowly recovering from a small exacerbation that, under Kaftrio, didn’t feel much like the old days. Almost no airway problems, only a little persistant fever presented. It is now slowly leaving the body, assisted by some mild antibiotics.

      And also in the Netherlands, on the 5th of December we celebrate Sinterklaas (who’s birthday is tomorrow), our version of Santa Claus, but it’s complicated because we also celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus. But Sinterklaas is based upon the Greek Bishop Nicholas of Bari, (270-343), who was actually born in Myra (then Greek, now Demre, in Turkish territory) but after his demise his larger bones were brought to Bari, south Italy. This was only in 1087, when Myra of  Greece was invaded by Turks, and Italian sailors from Bari more or less robbed his remains and brought them to Italy to be safe and accessible. Later his skeleton was scattered all over Europe, because everyone wanted a piece of the man’s holy remains.

      He was also called Nicholas the Wonderworker because of the many miracles attributed to him. He became bishop in Myra when he visited Myra again after a journey to the Holy Land, and there was a vacancy after the former bishop had died and the priests in the city declared that the first man who would enter the church that morning would be made bishop. Nicholas happened to be that man. How is that for a job application? Be careful where you go.

      He had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those that left them out for him and as a savior of the children. In the Netherlands geographical awareness at that time was not up to par, and the story is that Sinterklaas comes from Spain. This is probably because later a large part of Europe was invaded by the Spanish, and they also brought the story of Nicholas. In our national anthem we even pay tribute to the king of Spain (which/who nowadays lost all meaning). This is just one of the (out)dated associations that come with the story, like the fact that St. Nicholas, coming from “Spain”  was accompanied by black-skinned helpers (called Zwarte Piet – Black Pete), and nowadays this has produced some mistaken spasmodic association in many modern politically correct Dutch minds of discrimination (a white man with black colored slaves – how wrong is that?). Reason why Sinterklaas these days presents himself by Pieten (Pete’s) in all colours (Rainbow Pete’s) but black. Well, we wouldn’t want to give a wrong impression of history now, would we? After all, we all know that recorded history is always an extremely reliable, precise and absolutely accurate scientific account of what really happened …

      Today, St. Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift giver in many Western and Central European countries. The strange relation between St. Nicholas and Christmas festivities in the Low Countries (Netherlands and Belgium) is explained by the fact that on 6th December, all sailors in that area would descend in the harbor towns to participate in a church celebration for their patron Saint. On the way back, they would buy presents on the various Nicholas fairs for their loved ones and some little presents for their children. The real gifts would only be presented at Christmas, but the little ones would be given right away, courtesy of Saint Nicholas.

      The belief in this strange mythical man is still widely spread and is one of stories children are deceived to believe in when they are young. Only later to find out that the gifts come from another source. After swallowing  this truth they are sometimes a bit disillusioned and don’t know who to trust anymore. They still hang on though to almost all of the other identifications they have erroneously embraced, until some of them find out their real nature much later in life, but I told about this already in another story you can find on our website which is about the Santa-Clausness of life in general.

      So Sinterklaas is a children’s feast and since we don’t have children ourselves, we let it pass by. A few presents however are slowly building up in the bedroom closet to be unwrapped at Christmas. HoHoHo.

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