Santa Claus in AmsterdamTourism poll Amsterdam

Who is that weird looking guy on the horse and what are those even weirder looking (hm, lets use the word fellows) around him? That my dear friends is Sinterklaas and his black piets. Who is Sinterklaas you might ask unless you're real clever and have already made the connection. Sinterklaas is not his real name, he was called St. Nicholas and the black piets were his servants. St. Nicholas visits Amsterdam every year, actually it's not really him, he died a long long time ago but someone dresses up in costume and pretends to be him, much the way Santa does in America. Santa is short for Santa claus, the linguists among you must have put two and two together by now and are beginning to realize that Santa claus is nothing more than a corruption, a degeneration, a bastardization if you will, of the word Sinterklaas. God I love writing! You get to play with all these words...
Sinterklaas emtering Amsterdam
Ok, so who is Sinterklaas and who is Santa claus because although their names are derived of one another their personalities are not. Sinterklaas or St. Nicholas as he was really called was a bishop of the Catholic church, I say Catholic but that isn't really all that important as Catholicism was all there was in those days.

Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey. He lived from 280 until 342. He is besides the patron saint of children also patron saint of Amsterdam. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southeastern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari. Bari later formed part of the Spanish Kingdom of Naples, because it was previously conquered in 1442 by Alfonso V of Aragon. The city thus became part of the Kingdom of Aragon and later to Spain, until the eighteenth century. Due to the fact that the remains of St. Nicholas were in Bari (then a Spanish city), is this tradition that St. Nicholas comes from Spain. St. Nicholas is well known in Spain as the patron of sailors, so that's why St. Nicholas comes to the Netherlands always in a steamboat. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

As for Santa?
Santa Claus, or "Santa", is a figure in North American culture with legendary, mythological and folkloric aspects who developed from an amalgamation of Dutch Sinterklaas, English Father Christmas and other traditions of Christmas gift-bringers. Santa Claus is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. The figure developed in the 19th century from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which, in turn, has part of its basis in hagiographical (what's that?) tales concerning the historical figure of gift giver Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus is generally depicted as a plump, jolly, white-bearded man wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots (images of him rarely have a beard with no moustache). This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of caricaturist and cartoonist Thomas Nast. This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, children's books and films. The North American depiction of Santa Claus as it developed in the 19th and 20th century in turn influenced the modern perceptions of Father Christmas, Sinterklaas and Saint Nicholas in European culture.

Did you read that, I mean how could you not, it blinking and all that, Thomas Nast That was the culprit, he is the scoundrel responsible for all that Rudolph the red nose reindeer nonsense. He and Hollywood!
According to a tradition that can be traced to the 1820s, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a large number of magical elves, and at least eight or nine flying reindeer. Since the 20th century (popularized by the 1934 song Santa Claus Is Coming to Town), Santa Claus is also said to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior ("naughty" or "nice") and that he delivers presents, including toys, candy, and other gifts to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.
Sinterklaas's stafF
Ok, back to Sinterklaas and his piets, he arrives somewhere around the 20th of November on a steamboat from Spain, he is welcomed by the general populace accompanied by their children who are encouraged to believe in him. He rides the roofs of the city at night on his horse Amigo, and drops presents down the chimney in eagerly awaiting shoes. Sounds familiar? On the 5th of December, his birthday, he goes all out and drops of large bags of presents at either the front or back door of the house loudly banging on the door and throwing candy around inside the house. The next day he's gone. Up in smoke, back to Spain. There is more of course, there's the good behaviour thing, if you did well you get koek (cookies or cake), if you're bad you get gart, (nobody knows what that is).

The Piets or in Dutch De zwarte pieten
The piets carry old fashioned brooms with which they can hit you. Of course that never happens, they are really what they clean the chimney with when they climb down. The piets are very agile. They are usually white folk covered in shoe polish. With so many colored people around these days socialist parties always so sensitive to the ethnic reaction thought we should get rid of them as they might offend some sectors of society. It turned out it doesn't, when asked they replied they've got more important things to worry about.

The mitres of Sinterklaas So St. Nicholas what is the real story?
Saint-Nicholas was born in 280 AD, he became the bishop of Myra and died in 342 at the ripe old age of 62. He lived in Turkey not in Spain and was known as a very generous man.
Seven hundred years after his death, his bones were secretly transported to Italy when muslims conquered the area. The part of italy they ended up at belonged to Philip the second, King of Spain. Therefore some thought that it was the Iberian peninsula he originated from but that is incorrect. He was Turkish, he was a turk and never went to Spain. The story goes that St. Nicholas celebrated his birthday of December the sixth, that is also not correct, he died on that date, December the sixth.


The bag of Sinterklaas
One thing we failed to mention is the "bag of Sinterklaas" in Dutch "De zak van Sinterklaas." It also plays a somewhat scary role in the whole event. Kids are told that if they really misbehave, Sinterklaas and his Piets will put them in their now empty bags and take them with them on their boat back to Spain. Of course this is all done in good humor and when the children get a little older and smarter the'll come to the conclusion that their parents are liars and can no longer be relied on to tell the truth. As a young smarter boy I once asked my folks if God existed, when they said no, I knew there was no guarantee they were telling the truth.



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