It’s that time of year again… Saint Nicholas (aka Sinterklaas) has arrived (or is about to arrive) in the Netherlands, on his boat from Spain. He will be riding his white horse around Holland, getting ready to celebrate his birthday on December 5th and hand out presents to the kids. Actually his birthday is on December 6th but many decades or so ago he must have decided that the 5th would be a better day to celebrate it. Anyway, it’s complicated. In the US I have always had a hard time explaining the tradition of Sinterklaas without being laughed at, or without people bringing up the (to them) obvious references to slavery in the Saint Nicholas tradition. Granted, I wouldn’t paint my face black, dress up like a Black Pete (Zwarte Piet) and go wander around Oakland like that, as people who are less aware of the Dutch tradition might misinterpret what they’re seeing.
I came across a hilarious essay by David Sedaris on youtube that (fairly accurately) describes the Saint Nicholas tradition in Holland. You can view it right here – highly recommended. (it’s in 3 parts, make sure to watch all three of them…)