sinterklaas

Gelukkig Sinterklaas

Gelukkig Sinterklaas

by / / 33 posts

Today is a pretty important day in the Netherlands (and Belgium). It’s the day we pull rank on those who only celebrate Christmas. While the rest of the world awaits December 25th for Santa to deliver a new bike, for the Dutch December 5th is the eve of Sinterklaas, or “Loot Day”, as I like to call it. Settle in for an uncharacteristic Velominati Cultural Lesson.

December 6th is Saint Nicolas’ birthday, and every 5th of December he and his “helpers” travel through the Netherlands to deliver gifts to all the boys and girls. In yet another example of the many ways the Dutch have shaped global culture, Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch name for Saint Nicolas, Sinterklaas.

Although the tradition of a Saint delivering gifts to children across the land is shared by both the American Christmas and the Dutch Sinterklaas, the style of the gift-giving is very different. My family being anything but “typical”, I can’t speak first-hand about how a typical Dutch family celebrates, but I am to understand it’s fairly similar to what my family did.

The evening starts off with singing various songs, among them “Zie Ginds Komt de Stoomboot” (“Here Comes the Steam Boat”), “Zie de Maan Schijnt Door de Bomen” (“The Moon Shines Through the Trees”), and the all-time classic, “Sinterklaas, Kapoentje” (I actually don’t understand this one; a ‘Kapeon’ is a castrated hen).

When we were children, my dad would leave the room after we sang to go “work on the car”, which conveniently always had engine trouble on Sinterklaas. Shortly thereafter, Zwarte Piet would throw pepernoten into the living room through open doors and windows. Flying Pepernoten had the effect of sending me into terrified hysterics. Most of my memories of this activity involve me hiding behind the couch, crying. This would also be a great time to remind Young Frank of Rule #5. (Little known fact: Zwarte Piet happens to be exactly my dad’s size and wears the same overalls as my dad uses for car work.)

After the pepernoten, we would sit down to fresh-baked rolls for dinner. To our perennial surprise, we would each discover a small, rolled-up note inside our roll. Upon the note was found a riddle, the answer to which revealed the location of the evening’s first gift. We would all scurry off around the house to retrieve our gifts and return to the table to open them. The meal was hastily finished before festivities could continue.

Traditionally, the Dutch also make what are called “Surprises” (pronounced “sur-pre-sus”) which consist of a gag gift and one or more clues which lead to the real gift, or a poem. A Surprise with a “gedicht” (poem) makes as much fun of the recipient as possible; no holds barred. Let me put it this way: sarcasm is not lost on the Dutch. We may have invented it.

In addition to a gedicht, a Surprise may also involve a gag-gift which needs to be disassembled in order to find the riddle that instructs the receiver of where to find their real gift. A classic example was my VMH‘s first Sinterklaas with my family. At the time, she was working in a medical research lab as a lab scientist. She received her Surprise from my mother: a small, low dish filled with a green slime with a slip of paper at the bottom. Accompanying it was a note that read, “There’s something fishy in this here petri dishy.” She had to dig through the slime (we were told it was Jell-O) to get the note out and retrieve her gift.

What is particularly nice about this style of gift-giving is that it encourages the giving of thoughtful gifts. There is usually less gift-giving (the Dutch also invented stinginess), but everyone waits their turn and pays attention to the others while they open their gifts; gift giving becomes something everyone joins in to together.

So, as the rest of the world sits around waiting for Santa and his sleigh to deliver your loot; I’ll be spending my day trying to figure out how Sinkerklaas plans to disguise the Shimano Di2 ‘Cross bike I asked him for. And I hope his horse doesn’t crap on it.

To each of you, we wish you a Gelukkig Sinterklaas.

// General

  1. @Steampunk

    Two rounds of gifts? No wonder the Dutch are so soft and can’t win anything.

    Mark my words, Gesink – l’Alpe. Dutch Mountain will be ours again.

  2. @Niek
    And lets not forget that instead of a box of coal, naughty kids get de roe, which is a swatch of sticks instead of a present. My VMH one year, not fully understanding what it meant, gave me de roe as part of a Suprise. I still have not forgiven her fully.

    @Geoffrey Grosenbach
    Ha! Well played.

    @ben
    HEY. We all know smoking reduces lung capacity. Freebasing for me only. Plus heroin is a great way to lose weight.

  3. @Frank
    Don’t tell me you haven’t found a way to make that roe of use ;-)

  4. “Kapoentje” Does means “castrated hen” according to the “Van Dale” dictionary, but I heard it used to be used for castrated man, circumsized man or someone celibate (sexual abstinence). It might refer to the celibacy of the bishop Sinterklaas in a sarcastic way, but I cannot officially confirm that. I got two cycling related gifts today, a photo book by Cor Vos and a sound damping mat to put my tacx on (some woman doesn’t like my tacx)

  5. Those little Zwarte Piet fellas look like the lawn jockeys people used to put in their yards back in the 50’s and shit. Evidently the Dutch invented racism too.

    Gelukkig Sinterklaas to frank and all my other Dutch friends. Wait, frank is my only Dutch friend. Enjoy the day man. Your Di2 cross bike is gonna be sweet, hopefully it’s an ALAN.

  6. A Surprise with a “gedicht” (poem) makes as much fun of the recipient as possible; no holds barred. Let me put it this way: sarcasm is not lost on the Dutch. We may have invented it.

    Although he has an Irish surname the above just explains Marcus’ heritage – he must be Dutch too.

    Happy Sinterklass Frank – nice story.

  7. @Paco

    Paco :
    “Kapoentje” Does means “castrated hen” according to the “Van Dale” dictionary, but I heard it used to be used for castrated man, circumsized man or someone celibate (sexual abstinence). It might refer to the celibacy of the bishop Sinterklaas in a sarcastic way, but I cannot officially confirm that.

    I am wondering why there is a need to castrate a hen?? Is it i) because you like heving a pet hen but you don’t like eggs; or ii) you also have a pet rooster and like to keep him satisfied but don’t like the idea of baby chicks?

  8. frank:
    @Steampunk

    Two rounds of gifts? No wonder the Dutch are so soft and can’t win anything.

    Mark my words, Gesink – l’Alpe. Dutch Mountain will be ours again.

    I’ll be waiting. All you have to do with that guy is look at him sideways and he breaks a wrist or a collarbone or something. Nevertheless, Gelukkig Sinterklaas!

  9. Gelukkig Sinterklass indeed. Love the effort that is required, so much better than your “standard” Christmas

  10. @Jarvis
    Indeed – now that you mention it, this is much more in alignment with what Velominati is about than the traditional tear-at-packages-in-unison approach of Christmas morning.

    Since celebrating Sinterklaas with my Velomihottie, we’ve taken the Suprise tradition to Christmas, and made poems and gags for most of the gifts we put under the tree. It easily transfers. Give it a shot!

  11. Frank, freebasing is smoking! :-D

  12. Re:(the Dutch also invented stinginess)…and the Scots invented cheapness. I got my bother’s hand me down bikes. I remember my brother getting a new red ‘big boy’s bike’ for a Christmas. He was so f”ing happy. That was the moment when I got his old 20″ wheel piece of crap. Ya. Joy. Now I ride real bikes since my Bianchi Strada LX when I was 15. Had to wait far too long. Never the less with that off my chest, Gelukkig Sinterklaas!

  13. @Frank
    Well written post – interesting change of pace. I actually learned something that isn’t bicycle related…

  14. The Inner Ring is all up in your Sinterklaas!!
    http://theinnerring.blogspot.com/2010/12/happy-sinterklaas.html

  15. I was really hoping Sinterklaas would riddle me some Mavic 32h 3x Open Pros from ebay for #3. Alas, I’m not Dutch though.

  16. Dank U Frank,

    I can recall a very similar Sinterklaas celebration, but done in a very large group or club that my parents were involved with. For most of us youngsters it was nothing short of traumatic to witness some poor chap sitting on Sinterklaas’s lap getting stuffed in a burlap sack by the zwarte piet when his gift was mere inches from his greedy little hands. Of course all pre-arranged by the parents. It finally happened to me, and in retrospect I wish it had been sooner, for many years the festivity always caused some anxiety. Your wise to have cowered from the flying pepernoot, one of those in the forhead will leave a mark.

  17. Thanks Frank. Its always great to start the day by expanding ones cultural horizons.

    @Dexter

    On another note, are you the Assos guy Dexter? Your avatar image shows a suspicious likeness.

  18. @Steampunk

    I am wondering why there is a need to castrate a hen??

    I think I mix up languages. I mean castrated rooster (“haan” in dutch, sounds similar to hen, that is “kip” in dutch.

  19. @Frank
    Een boom, twee bomen. Dus: zie de maan schijnt door de bomen.

  20. Thanks Frank and Gelukkig Sinterklaas to as well!

  21. Sinterklaas, Kapoentje? Isn’t that the song from Miracle on 34th Street? Now I’m going to hear it in my head when I go riding! Arrrghhh!

  22. I think you may appreciate this article Frank.

    I was wondering where the title “Six to Eight Black Men” was coming from for the first few paragraphs.

    http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1202-DEC_SEDARIS

  23. Fuck!  That’s awesome….Frank book a flight and get your ass round here….we need some of that super crimbo spirit in our house!!  A little “Dutch stylie” Christmas good cheer would go down a storm…..but you are baking the bread rolls!

  24. May the taai taai and spekalaas smother your shoes tonight :D

  25. @Di

    @frank

    Reminds me of a Belgian Sinterklaas. Same difference, except our’s did not wear wooden shoes.

    Other Frank (Belgian)

Leave a Reply