Sunday, 4 December 2011

To do or not to do: Celebrate Sinterklaas abroad?

Sinterklaas coming to town 2011, Nederland
It's the time of year in the Netherlands that all the children are excited. They are full of anticipation, they are expecting a bag full of presents. It's the time of year that "Sinterklaas" is celebrated. He arrived in the Netherlands on the 12th of November this year and since then there has been a daily Sinterklaas news show on television for the children. This is the Dutch website of het Sinterklaas journaal (the news). Here the Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that Sinterklaas arrived safely in the Netherlands. This is an interesting fact: The arrival of Saint Nicholas #sinterklaasintocht even became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter for a while on Saturday.

I was talking to my brother-in-law last week and he told me that he enjoys hearing our stories and seeing the photos of our Sinterklaas celebrations in Malawi and Zimbabwe. He said "that is probably the most Dutch thing that you did when you lived there". For the Dutch community in Harare, Zimbabwe my dad was the Sinterklaas and as teenagers we dressed up as zwarte Piet (black Peter). I remember being stared at driving through the streets of Harare dressed up as zwarte Piet. I must admit I have fond memories of our Sinterklaas celebrations abroad.

On the InCulture website there is a blog post about St. Nicholas day. There a several countries in Europe where they celebrate a variation of Sinterklaas.

I met an expat here in the Netherlands and she has written several blog posts about Sinterklaas. I will add the links because sometimes it's good to have an objective description from an "outsider". To get into the feel of it. Here is Fourier Analyst her English Pepernoten recipe and her English recipe for Kruidnoten. Both pepernoten and kruidnoten are biscuits that are typical for Sinterklaas celebrations. Many schools and even daycare centres have the kids make these small biscuits as a fun activity. Here Fourier Analyst writes about the history of Sinterklaas. In the following posts she explains the traditions of adding poems to the presents and there is a lot more interesting information.
Who is coming to you house? part II
Who is coming to your house? part III
Who is coming to your house? part IV
Who is coming to you house? part V
Who is coming to your house? part VI

Did you know that half a billion chocolate coated pepernoten cookies are expected to be sold this holiday season?

There is a Dutch website for children abroad called Wereldkids. On their website you can see Sinterklaas in Madrid, Spain and in Singapore. There is even a photo competition for the best photo of a Sinterklaas celebration abroad. The winning photo's were made in Austria, Entebbe (Uganda) and Accra (Ghana), have a look.

This year for the first time in many years Sinterklaas did not officially arrive in Vancouver, Canada. The reason was that Zwarte Piet (black Peter) was not allowed to be part of the celebrations. There were accusations of racism. They decided that if Zwarte Piet was not allowed then the celebrations would be cancelled. So the question is to celebrate or not to celebrate Sinterklaas abroad? Do we teach our third culture kids abroad our home traditions or not? What do you think? What are your memories of celebrations abroad?

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