Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sinterklaas and NL

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the good saint set foot in The Netherlands. After a long journey by steamboat, he finally docked in one of the bigger cities. Since then, he's been making regular appearances on the telly with a host of black petes in attendance who all can sing, can dance and are into being cool.

Funny how adults will perpetrate the myth and go to any lengths to keep their kids believing in this man. Parents who tell their kids that it's just a dress-up guy are considered terrible people by other parents who tell their kids that he is really real.

Of course, at a certain age, children do discover that Sinterklaas isn't real and that all along it was Mom and Dad who put goodies in the shoes they set before the door.

The danger of perpetrating the myth is that kids do go to their parents and confront them with their lies and my sewing teacher told us yesterday that when her grandson discovered Sinterklaas wasn't real as his parents had been telling him all along, he refused to pray and to believe in God, because he said God must also be a lie like Sinterklaas.

Legend goes that this good man was born in Turkey and for some reason immigrated to Spain and from Spain he travelled to The Netherlands with a shipload of goodies, sweets and toys for kids over here. Long ago, when life wasn't as modern as it is today, Sinterklaas gave goodies and gifts only to kiddies who had been on their best behaviour. The black petes were actually quite scary creatures who, according to my mother-in-law, kidnapped bad children, stuffed them in a sack and took them back to Spain where they existed on only bread and butter until they learned how to be good.

Well, I can see how effective that story can be around this time of year. Threaten your child with no toys in his shoe and Sinterklaas not having his name on the good list, and you're bound to see a child who will do almost anything their Mommies will ask them to do.

Today, Black Pete has been transformed into a hiphop, cool fellow who helps the good saint and loves kids and who distributes sweets and cookies to every child in sight.

While I enjoy the feast, I don't believe in perpetrating the myth. I told Joel a long time ago that this fellow is just a dress-up guy and that Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas was indeed a good man who lived long ago. So, this fellow in that red cape is just someone who carries on the tradition of giftgiving that the original Sinterklaas gave birth to.

My husband does not agree with me telling this to my son. He thinks we shouldn't interfere with a child's belief.

As for Joel, he's been figuring things out for himself. He's been asking me questions about the good saint's existence, about miracles and wonders, questioning how we can know if something is real or not.

The other night, he told me that God is real and more powerful than Sinterklaas. I think that somewhere in the back of his head, he does know that Sinterklaas is just a dress-up guy. But right now, it's just too much fun to keep on believing. To keep on hoping and expecting for the unexpected surprises that show up in his shoe.


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