Wednesday, December 05, 2007
SinterKlaas and a story of evolving
It is December 5th and here in Holland that means it is 'pakjesavond' or the evening that The Sint brings all the boys and girls presents. Tomorrow is his birthday (Saint Nicolaas Day) and he celebrates it by giving gifts to others. This day is rooted back to the very early church. Many people in my adopted country of Holland are sensitive about the idea of Christmas and Santa Claus but they actually are in many ways responsible for the celebration of Christmas as we know it today.
The very early Dutch immigrants brought the tradition of SinterKlaas with them to the New World. Over time, the name SinterKlaas became Santa Claus in America. The early Santa looked more like his counterpart The Sint in those days.
In the children's poem by Clement Clarke Moore called "A Visit from St. Nicholas" or commonly now known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas", there is one of the first references of Santa as the jolly fat St. Nick we know and love today:
"He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;"
This was further helped along to change the physical image of Santa when Thomas Nash did a series of caricatures for 'Harper's Weekly' and then later in the late 1920s when Coca Cola created the popular image for an advertising campaign.
There are some wonderful similarities between these two figures which show how fun an evolution it has been. SinterKlaas rides on a white horse which lands on the rooftops to deliver the gifts.
Santa Claus rides in a sleigh filled to the brim with gifts pulled by his team of flying reindeer.
Dutch children lay out a shoe each Saturday evening to be filled with little gifts and candy from the time that SinterKlaas arrives in Holland until 'pakjesavond'.
American children hang a stocking by the fire on Christmas eve to be filled by Santa with little gifts and candy.
Dutch children place items such as carrots, water and straw for The Sint's white horse with their shoes.
Perhaps this is the sweetest of the chain of evolution as now children place cookies and milk out for Santa Claus before going to bed on Christmas Eve.
Regardless of where you live or your beliefs, the reasons behind the story of SinterKlaas or Santa Claus are of love, sharing, belief and giving. That is the special thread that ties our countries together. So whether you celebrate one or the other or both.....have a wonderful December 5th wherever you are today!