This is my first Sinterklaas and I have to say, I don’t get it. The Dutch celebrate a premature Santa Claus who walks around with sunburnt elves. A Dutch person tried to explain it to me and after three paragraphs I felt like drinking a coke.
In Portugal we have Santa Claus, with elves as helpers and a sleigh drawn by reindeer. Apparently this jolly old fellow only flies over the Netherlands to drop off his older cousin. When I heard about Sinterklaas, I thought he was Santa. He looks like Santa, it all feels like Santa, but ‘Noooo, he’s different’. He arrives earlier, with his black helpers. These aren’t elves, but Pieten. These Pieten don’t fly the sleigh, because Sinterklaas comes on a boat. And all I could think was, the Dutch are cuckoo!
Flying reindeer may be excessive, but if you’re trying to fool your kids, at least give them something to dream about. Don’t be this realistic. Or just have him arrive in an old van and teach your kids to keep away from the old man who offers them candy.
Why do the Dutch do this to themselves? Santa is jolly, he is mainstream. Do the Dutch have to protest against everything? Santa is timeless. Well, at least since Coca-Cola invented him. And Sinterklaas is already a television phenomenon; it’s only a matter of time before he sells out. How much fun would it be to see Sinterklaas sponsored by Heineken? He may be arriving in a beer truck by then.
All joking apart, Sinterklaas was actually the inspiration for Santa Claus, and believe me, shopping malls around the world are grateful. But I can’t go back to Portugal wishing Merry Sinterklaas to people, so I’ll do it here: Merry Sinterklaas, everybody!
Tiago Miguel, Portuguese MSc student of Forest and Nature Conservation