Sinterklaas is Coming to Town Pt 1

The Dutch have their own fat, jolly man, and his name is Sinterklaas. Short for Sint Nicolaas, Dutch for Saint Nicholas, he also happens to be the patron saint of Amsterdam. If Santa Claus and the Pope went on a date and got pregnant, he’d look like Sinterklaas.
The story goes that each November he arrives by steamship from Spain (not the North Pole!?) along with his posse of Zwarte Pieten or Black Petes. This year the ship was to dock at the Maritime Museum, supposedly between 10:00 and 10:30, so off I went to meet up with him. Strangely, when I got to there, there were only a handful of people waiting. Turns out he wasn’t scheduled to be there until 11:30. UGH! I ended up cooling my heels in the restaurant.

As time passed, the dock slowly filled with people and boats. Since I had my museum card, I got in without paying and had a slightly better vantage point — plus it was far more comfortable to being outside.

Soon enough a drawbridge opened and to cheers and loud music out came the steamship carrying the guest of honor…


…along with a boatful of men in (really) blackface, black curly wigs, and big red lips. They are his Black Petes. The also happen to be his servants(!!!) Where’s the PC police when you need them?!?
The Black Petes are there to help Sinterklaas with everything he needed — which basically means they do all the dirty work. According to some Dutchies I’ve spoken with, they’re black due to the soot from going in and out of chimneys. Much as I’d like to believe that it doesn’t quite explain the afro hair and the big red lips.

And here’s the man of the hour! Interesting how a make-believe character has this huge an effect on so many people – the children went crazy when they saw him. He didn’t go Ho! Ho! Ho! which would’ve been cute. He was met by no less than the Mayor of Amsterdam and given the key to the city. After all the formalities he disappeared inside the museum and would soon head out to meet an even bigger crowd in the city center.

They say that the original Saint Nicholas was a bishop which would explain the clothes and scepter. Unfortunately,  it also means there’s no Mrs Sinterklaas. ):
Since it was my first time to see this in Amsterdam, it was nice to see all the pomp and circumstance, plus it’s another reminder that Christmas is just around the corner. And apparently, the Santa Claus we all know and love and famous all over is for the most part based on him. The Black Petes on the other hand didn’t make the same transition to the world stage.
Wonder why that is? (:

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