Sinterklaas in New York
Manhattan Travel Blog› entry 756 of 1090 › view all entries
Sinterklaas is a typically Dutch phenomenon. Or maybe that is unfair towards Belgium, the North of France, Indonesia, Surinam, and the Dutch Caribbean where Sinterklaas is also known. Just in a few lines: what is and who is Sinterklaas? Sinterklaas, also called Saint Nicholas, is the patron saint of the city of Amsterdam and of the sailors. The real Saint Nicholas used to live in Myra, Turkey and is said to have given presents and money. For centuries the birthday of Saint Nicholas has been celebrates as an evening filled with candy and presents. Kids are told to behave, if they are good they get presents and sweets, if they are not Sint Nicholas' assistant, Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) will come and take them to Spain. Black Pete has been under a lot of criticism lately. Some associate the black-faced assistant of Sinterklaas with racism, something which is absolutely not the idea of the whole feast of Sinterklaas.
What not many people know is that Sinterklaas has been the model for the much better know Santa Claus. Not only the name, the appearance, the presents etc. but Sinterklaas' horse can be seen in Santa's reindeers, and Santa's elves are Sinterklaas' Zwarte Petes.
Anyway, today, two days after the official Sinterklaas day, his holiness had decided to make his appearance on his way back to Spain in the Big Apple. He would pay a visit to the Netherland Club of New York, a club I am, as an expat, a member of. My colleague Michel, convinced me to attend the meeting, and so I did.
The Netherland club had organized it nicely with real Speculaas (gingerbread like cookies), Dutch cheese, and (the US interpretation) of Bitterballen (another Dutch but non-related to Sinterklaas snack).
When Sinterklaas made his way into the venue it was immediately clear that the Black Pete discussion was considered too sensitive for the US, the "black" Pete that accompanied him had no black make-up on his face. Sinterklaas discussed some topics, called some people to the stage and made Pete distribute some more candy.
Nice and amusing!