Science - December 1, 2005

Rather Sinterklaas than Father Christmas

Sinterklaas is the big winner among students. They would rather celebrate the traditional Dutch ‘pakjesavond’ on 5 December, writing poems at the last moment to go with small presents, rather than exchanging presents at Christmas.

Not everyone is against giving presents at Christmas: ‘Sinterklaas is for little children,’ is student Nienke’s reaction. Other students add that they end up doing presents at Christmas because they didn’t have time on 5 December. But the students who really prefer giving Christmas presents are in a clear minority, according to a mini-survey of almost seventy students: only ten percent celebrate Christmas and not Sinterklaas.

Three-quarters of the Dutch students in Wageningen celebrate Sinterklaas. A small proportion of students (thirteen percent) get to celebrate both events. On the other hand, twelve percent will probably go without presents for the entire festive season.

For most students Sinterklaas is a convivial and typically Dutch celebration. ‘Christmas is not a feast that involves present giving,’ says Sanne, a biotechnology student. ‘Of course we celebrate Sinterklaas,’ says Guylian in reply to the question whether he gives presents at Sinterklaas or Christmas.

Many students like Sinterklaas so much that they celebrate it several times: with their families and then again with in-laws, friends, flatmates or others. ‘At home we play the Sinterklaas game, where we throw dice to see who gets which small present,’ tells first-year student Linda. Most students write poems to go with their presents, but fewer make the traditional ‘surprises’. / YdH

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