The researchers who try to explain the origin of the Saint-Nicholas feast are divided into two camps.
On the one side there are those who does search for mythological simmilarities and origins, and because they are there (simmilarities) and/or seem to be there (origins), they therefore even claim that Saint Nicholas is a kind a of re´ncrenation or successor of the pagan god Wodan.
On the other side there are the onces who are searching for- and studying the History and the Legends and who therefore link the current St. Nicholas figures and customs with the legends and the medieval celebration of the Holy St. Nicholas.
J.W. Koning says about that, in his 'Sinterklaas en Kerstman Archief (St Nicholas and Santa Claus Archive)': "Unfortunately both sides do only look in their own fields of expertise, it is as if they are blind on one eye."
J.W. Koning deliberately used a variation on something Boppo Grimmsma said, Who on the site: http://www.nederlandsheidendom.nl/webstek/sinterklaas.html
in the Article: 'Is Sinterklaas de opvolger van Wodan? (Is St Nicholas the successor of Wodan)' does compare and explain some fact's and info's and than pittyfull comes to a wrong conclusion.
J.W. Koning says: "In such cases it is not only so, that that A pollinated B, or that B was pollinated by A. But usually there is a cross-pollination taking place,
So A gets something of B and at the same time B gets something from A." J.W.Koning adds: "It goes even further, sometimes both A and B did already had a small unnoticed particle C or they did get it during the crosspollination or even later. An C particle, that could be as wel younger as also older as A and B. Thus in those cases A would result in Abc. (Much A and a little bc) and B would result in Bac (Much B and few ac). Note here that somecorresponding items (the c's) thus are originating from neighter (A) and (B).
So these corresponding items (the c's) do also sure not confirm that A originates from B or vica versa. Only in the case that there realy is no other source to find as A or B as origin, only there you can assume that A does originate from B or that B does originate from A. In ALL the other cases there mostlikely has been a third of fourth source."
When discussing the Figures and the Customs later on this page, we will come back to this occasionally, including references to examples of Boppo Grimmsma and the commentary of J.W. Koning there upon.
So now in order of 'Appearence'.
Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas): See also the page with the History of Sinterklaas
The name 'Goedheiligman' (Good Holy man): Is a corruption of 'goed-hylik man' (= 'good-wedding man' (Hylik=huwelijk=wedding)), a title which Saint earned by ensuring the dowry of a few poor girls.
The name 'Sinterklaas' is said that it would be a corruption of Sint Heer Klaas (Saint lord Klaas). J.W. Koning, however arguse: The piece 'Sinter' is found in more countries for example Sinter Niklaas and Sinter Nikolaus (both Belgium). Also, it would more likely have become 'Sinteer'. To keep on going (for just a bit), Sinter would then soon have originated from 'Sint Herr' or Sankt Her (German origin), but in the whole of Germany they say no Sinterklaas. More likely, it is just as with Sankt and Sankte and as by Sanct and Sancta (see example in next line), a softer, friendlier (sometimes female) conjugation of Sint, used for a friendly (popular) Saint, so just like Sankte Claes (Klaas) also Sinte Klaas, were the 'r' later was added and it became one name Sinterklaas .
So is f.e. Sancta the feminine conjugation of Sanct, example Sancta Lucia. (female was mostly seen as softer and friendlier).
Sinterklaas his Costume:
Every child in the Netherlands knows how to draw Sinterklaas. He always wears the same kind of clothes.
Sinterklaas has also a Staff. The crosier is originally a dignity sign of a Bishop, and refers to the staff that shepherds wear. The curl in the crosier stems from the Etruscans and represent a snake, the source of wisdom and infinity. The staff of the Saint does have a bigger curl and usually ends in a lump or a split. A small split is called a ducks-mouth, a large split often ends in a decorative curl against the staff. If the Saint rides his horse, the Pete usually carries the staff. When the Saint is walking the he usually has the staff in his hand himself, except in Parades were he also should shake a lot of hands, then the staff is again carried by Pete. If the Saint is sitting, then the staff usually stands near or behind the seat.
- This begins with a Tabard, a long Priest dress, bishops do wear a purple one that is called 'toog'/'toga'. The Tabard has the model of a long dress and hangs down to the feet. When Sinterklaas has to do much horse riding he wears nowadays mostly a custom tabard, instead of a dress model is it from below a divided skirt.
- Over the tabard comes a white Albe, along bottom edge and at the wrists usually trimmed with lace. This Albe is what shorter than the Tabard and comes about halfway on the lower leg.
- Thereover wears the Saint around his neck a red Stola, a kind of scarf with on the ends an image of a cross or a mitre,
- which is kept on his place by a Cingel (white rope). Originally the Cingel did go over the Stola, but nowadays the Saint has the Stola often hanging over the Cingel.
- Above all come along red Cloak. This can be bright red, but also maroon populate. This cloak hangs down to his ankles (i.e. 3-5 cm higher then the Tabard). Partly it is because he does not touch the ground by walkin and stays better clean that way, but the main reason is the spurs (In those times most riders wore spurs then). With a longer cloak the spurs would damage the cloak.
- Also notable is the red Mitre from the Saint. Bishops wear actually never a mitre of the same color as their cloak, Sinterklaas does that nowadays always though. Very long ago you saw him sometimes with a white mitre.
Mitre: probably a 'corruption' of a Phrygian cap (Mitra or Mytra: an Oriental, religious head covering), often worn by bishops.
- As footwear the Saint does usually use riding boots or black shoes and very rare he wears gold-colored shoes,
- White or purple gloves (sometimes short but often long) and a Bishop's ring on the ring finger over the glove do make the costume of the Saint complete.
- Bishops wear their Episcopal ring always on the ring finger of their right hand, but the Saint wears him often on his left hand so that the ring won't hurt the children when he shake hands with them (with his right hand).
Sinterklaas also wears long hair and a long beard.
Now one could say:
- That points back to Wodan, who also had a long beard (J.W. Koning: not white but gray). But there are several mythological figures (some even older as Wodan) who also had long beards, so from which of them should be Nicholas his beard, from Wodan or from one of the others? And there are also several mythological figures who have a long beard that are younger then Wodan and who clearly have no connection with Wodan. So why should Saint Nicholas his beard be connected to Wodan without a proof of such connection? So there is no unambiguous connection and therefore also no evidence that Saint Nicholas his beard does originate from Wodan.
- Or it indicates the NazareŰrs (pious Jewish people who were not allowed to cut their hair) what the Roman Church did find a nice thought of course, but also there is no clear link so no proof.
But more likely it indicates Saint Nicholas his own (short) beard, as it is showen on images and icons. Mostlikely the beard and hair of the Saint are currently long because:
A. It makes being unrecognizable much easier,
B. It comes from the Idea; If a regular beard already gives the impression of old person, then a longer beard most make someone look even older.
Why white or grey? Because that simply is the hair color that older people usually have. And often we think lighter the hair color, the older the person.
Then the hypothesis: Is the Saint a follower/successor or new personification of Wodan.
The first bit comparison of Boppo Grimmsma and his conclusions from that:
External similarities between Wodan and Saint Nicholas:
1. Wodan and the Saint both ride a Horse (Grey or White),
2. Wodan has aa spear, Saint has a staff,
3. Wodan covers his head with a hat with slack edge, Sint with a mitre,
4. Wodan and the Saint both have a cloak.
and his conclusion for these simmilarities: All these simmilarities are accidental, and can be explained by the fact that they are all status symbols of both a pre-Christian Deity and a medieval Nobleman/Warrior and thus also of a bishop.
A conclusion which J.W. Koning fully supports. This even although Grimmsma did not talked about the beard in the short list.
However, Grimmsma comes on his website at the end of the page to the conclusion that although the Saint is no successor of Wodan (no mythological connection), but that Wodan sure has been the template, because in the vision of Boppo Grimmsma some other parts which he do name in that page (f.e. punnishing thiefs or act or laying judgement and riding with the wild bunch) of the Saint-Nicholas feast do point to Wodan.
J.W. Koning sees that different though. Most of those so called links are never been unambiguously pointing to Wodan (e.g. the thieves, before Wodan existed there were judges already, so it is nonsense to say that anyone who professionally deals with the punishment of crooks must have mythologically related to Wodan. If there should be a link, then that would be with such a mature judge, so it is crap say it a conclusive link to Wodan!)
Riding with the wild bunch (14th, 15th century), may indeed be associated with a Nicholas, but only with that Nicholas from ca 1500 (as indicated by the film "Saint", but the origin and purpose of that wild bunch is completely interpertated in that movie). However, it is completely not associated anyhow with the 3 Nicholases from whose legends Sinterklaas has grown. So at that point Boppe Grimmsma does error according to J.W. Koning.
Whether there is or there is not a connection with the White Horse and Pete and the chimney etc., will be explained further on on this page (at the items about the White Horse, Pete and the Chimney etc).
In total (Saint, White Horse, Pete, Chimney etc.)can you say, there remains too little to talk of a genuine mythological connection or a mythological heritage.
An old saying goes: "A chain is never stronger than the weakest link", J.W. Koning adds to it: "Without (enough) links no chain at all".
If you must conclude that more as three quarters of the so-called agreements surely or most likely are not originating from Wodan, and in all likelihood the remaining part is also questionable, then there are too few links left to build a chain. Without a chain no proven originating from Wodan.
Sure there are most likely somethings (e.g. chimney) lent from the stories around Wodan, but a template for Sinterklaas or the Saint-Nicholas feast is definitely out of the question. And certainly if you realize that the worship of Nicholas and the celebrating of his feast did exist before they knew about Wodan there so if there were lent things added then they were added later. A template or cast is meant to use in advance to create a form, and not be able to add things later.
Of course, a addition can be created with the use of a template, but then the template has just been the basic for the addition itself and not for the total form (not even for the way it is added!). And that is exactly the point at which many people do error in their conclusions.
The original helper of Sinterklaas, Nicodemus was a Bible scholar. He especially helped in the night-time adventures. To blend in the dark during their nightly trips, Nicodemus made his face dark (Just here and there a dark smudge on the face). So he could, like a Jack in a box, suddenly appear and disappear in the dark again. Also the children would than be able to recognize him in the Pieterman (this is: the servant).
Here is clearly not a link between the black of Nicodemus and the raven from Wodan, and also not with black Devils and not at all with Negro-slaves. The dark color (may have been black soot) was just camouflage. The completely dark makeover came only after the 2nd World War.
Preferably unseen, as a sign of generosity and modesty. Can be traced back to the legend of the three nubile girls. Often were it useful things (remember the dowry), such as foods that was long lasting and small pieces of money. Nowadays the throwing goodies are candy often mixed with peppernuts.
The Horse or the White Horse:
That both Wodan and Saint ride on a Lightcolored Horse does have a special meaning. In the geneticstheory it is been proven that dark colors are predominant. There are very few species that as a whole species does have a kind of a light colored skin or fur, and that light color has than a survival function. Even with subraces you see seldom animals with a light color and even then is white an exception. Typical examples are the polar bear and Arctic fox, Both the only bearrace with a white color as the only foxraces with white color life within the Northern Arctic Circle, where this color is both a camouflage as it helps to keep the cold out. So there will be rarely animals with a light color are born, unless that increases its chances of survival for such a animal. That can both provide protection (camouflage for Prey animals) as larger catch on (camouflage from predators). As with an Ermine, brown in the summer (camouflage) and in the winter white (again camouflage).
You see all over the world with every ancient culture the idea: If within a breed with dark colors thus an animal is born with a light color, then that is eigther a mistake (e.g. Albinos, often very vulnerable animals) or it must be a particular special animal. White Horses were thus seen as very special animals.
So we know e.g. from historical sources that white Horse sacred animals were for the Germans. Tacitus speaks of Holy white Horses that by the Teutons were worshipped.
Furthermore, according to Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), the horse Sleipnir of Wodan, was grey and had the 8 legs. the Horse of Sinterklaas, contrary, is white and has 4 legs.
That the Saint on a whit Horse rides says thus something about the special value that white and grey horses still had for the people in North West Europe after the introduction of Christianity. Also Napoleon did like to ride on a white Horse. You can not derive a direct relationship with Wodan from that. You can't says: The Saint has a White horse, because Wodan had a lightcolored Horse. 'Though the Saint ride a white horse to indicate that he has a special horse. Also, remember that the Saint's horse in the older legends also often was no white horse but a brown one, and previous to thatt it was sometimes even no horse but a donkey. Actually it was not confirmed to be a white horse until the people did say: "He drives across the rooftops", then it was thought that it must be a special horse and that was only at the beginning of the 19th century. If the white horse had been directly derived from Wodan, he would have been present in the legends right from the time that Wodan was still important to the people. The later appearing proves therefore that he is not descended from Wodans Sleipnir but simply originated from the custom of that time that important people did ride on white horses.
The riding on the rooftops:
Driving across the rooftops (Saint) you can also not compare with driving through the air (Wodan). Wodans horse was separated from the Earth (supernatural) and the horse from the Saint needed an surface/(under)ground (roof) (Earth bound, so normal).
J.W. Koning also points to the fact that most homes had thatched roofs and much lower walls as used nowadays (just think of a turfshack) and that ridng up to the roof of such a House not even such a great difficulty was. No more difficult as riding up against a hearty Hill. There are even facts known which tell that ridden armies during the wartime houses complete to the surface down driven (trampled under their hooves).
He states: It is therefore unimportant if the Saint actually rode up to such a roof or rode over such a roof. The point is that in the time that these stories did arise, this was not impossible and that it in some cases not even particularly difficult was to ride up to (some) roofs (depending the wallhight and the kind of roofcover). So it was never the intention of these stories bring the Saint and his horse as a supernatural team, but it was just a fairly mundane fact that the people in that period could very well imagine to be real.
So also there, is it not necessarily a from Wodan copied or borrowed trick or mythological background, but it is probably a simple thing that more people with a skilled but not too special horse could have done.
The Chimney and the setting of the shoes:
||The chimney used to be the symbol of the connection between humans and gods. |
The people believed that the gods did speak to them through the chimney and that Saint Nicholas the children also rewardusuallyed with gifts through the chimney.
The singing of Sinterklaas songs was intended to please Sinterklaas, just like the people in the old time tried to please the gods through the chimney.
Gods is plural, it may be that this specifically refers to the Germanic gods, and therefore also to Wodan, it may as well be that this refers to pre-christian gods in general.
Here you can indeed say that this is retrieved is from a non Christian culture, probably from the German or the French.
Setting the shoe happened already in the 16 century, but then they were usually not yet set by the chimney. (the leather woud dry out).
The story of shoes setting near the chimney is arisen at the end of the 19th century.
A large speculasdoll is called a sweetheart, did you get one (anonymous), it meaned you had an admirer.
For example, sometimes a boy did decorate a speculasdoll (in other countries a gingerbread man) with glaze and nuts and brought it to a girl to let her notice that he had feelings for her. If the doll was accepted by the girl, the feelings were mutual. Herefrom originates the expression to sweeten (sweetheart) someone to something.
Though it was so that the speculasdolls were often given by people with a better income, at the poor man gave one taai-taai-dolls (literally tough-tough-dolls).
There are multiple explanations for the word speculas (speculoos):
- The most likely one is the Latin word speculum (mirror), because a in the past gingerbread men and speculasdolls were very often used as images of Saints or of the Germanic fertility goddess Freia. Or maybe the image (mirror image) was a symbol for the early Christian or the Germanic sacrifices used to be brought. Funny thing in this context is, the 'doll' is the mirrored image of the image on the cake Board with which it is made.
- The Latin word speculator ('he who sees everything'); which is also a nickname of Saint Nicholas.
- In older Dutch speculation meant "contemplation" or "suspect". The cake was therefore (possibly jokingly) called speculation or speculator because the giver/ster of a 'sweetheart' was speculating that the receiver/ster might be feeling something for him/her.
- There would also be a connection with the word spice, a reference to the herbs that characterize speculas.
How do you make speculas:
- 200 grams flower
- 100 grams (dark) brown bastard sugar
- a little salt
- 3 theespoons cake- or speculasherbs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 125 grams cold butter (cream)
- little butter to grease the cake pan (baking mold)
- flower to 'pollinate'
the top of the mix in the cakepan
before is goes in the oven.
- 200 gram bloem
- 100 gram (donker) bruine basterdsuiker
- beetje zout
- 3 theelepels koek- of speculaaskruiden
- 2 eetlepels melk
- 125 gram koude (room) boter
- beetje boter om bakvorm in te vetten
- bloem om de bovenkant van de mix
in de bakvorm te bestuiven
voor deze in de oven gaat.
Method of Preparation:
Take a large mixing bowl and sift the flour into the bowl. Add the sugar, the salt and the cake spices, mix them dry. Than add the milk. With a knife, cut the butter in small peaces and mix it through the dough. The mixture should stay cool, and there should not be any air in. Put the ball of dough in foil and place it in the fridge for at least a few hours, preferably a whole day.
If you're going to start with the cookies, preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. If you have cookie-molds (cinnamon cookies shelves), then sprinkle them with flour and press your dough in small balls in the molds. Press firmly and slide off excess dough with a knife. If you have no cookie mold, you can also roll out the dough to a thickness of half an inch and cutting out the figures with (cake) tins. Get the speculas figures (biscuits) out the molds (the cinnamoncookies shelf) with a hefty knock. Butter a baking sheet or take a sheet of parchment paper, place the biscuits out on it, not too close to each other, and bake them in 20 minutes brown and ready. Let them cool down. Store them in a biscuit tin or box.
30 g cinnamon (1 oz),
10 g cloves (1/3 oz),
10 g nutmeg,
5 g white pepper (1/6 oz),
5 g anise seed,
5 g coriander seed,
30 g kaneel (1 oz),
10 g kruidnagelen (1/3 oz),
10 g nootmuskaat,
5 g witte peper (1/6 oz),
5 g anijszaad,
5 g korianderzaad,
Stamp or ground the spices well fine. Strain through a fine sieve and then stamp/ground the coarser pieces again. Keep them cool and dark in a tightly closed jar. |
Slices taai-taai which display an image of a Saint or a sweetheart.
Custom and origin the same as Speculas. But more used by the poor people.
- 350 grams flower
- 2 theespoons bakingpowder
- 250 ml liquid honey
- 1 tablespoon speculasherbs
- 1 theespoon grounded anise seed
- 350 gram bloem
- 2 theelepels bakpoeder
- 250 ml vloeibare honing
- 1 eetlepel speculaaskruiden
- 1 theelepel gemalen anijszaad
Method of Preparation:
Mix the flower, bakingpowder and salt. Add the honey and the herbs to the mix. Use your hands to knead a smooth dough and leave that rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, but rather for a few days, to stiffen and so taste of the herbals can move in the dough. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1 cm and cut out small figures. You can also modle figurines by hand. On a greased baking sheet, in the middle of a preheated oven and bake at 200 degrees Ceclius in 15 min. Placing small balls (1 inch) instead of ramekins on baking sheet gives you taai-taai peppernuts, see Peppernuts 1.
The interspersing of peppernuts refers to former fertility rituals that were performed in the Saint Nicholas periode. It is comparable to throwing rice at a wedding. This is because the Saint was also the "goed-hylik man" was.
As delicacy were the peppernuts already know in the time of Jan Steen (famous Dutch painter), although they then existed out chunks taai-taai (tough-tough). See picture.
In the past they were usually mixed with coins, nowadays the throwing is mostly done with herb-nuts (see peppernuts 2), often mixed with candy.
Sugar animals, Sugar coodies and Fondentplate:
|Also sugar critters are left over from the early Christian or the Germanic time, when animals were sacrificed.
In addition to the critters there was also other candies (e.g. fondent plate), often in the shape of a heart. Just like the speculas sweethearts this hearts were a sign of a admirer.
|Edible Characters were used on monastery schools in the middle ages to teach children to write. As soon as they could write a character well, they were allowed to eat the corresponding breadcharacter as a reward. This tradition is seen as a forerunner of the chocolatecharacter. You may eat the first character of your name because often the first character that children do know, is the character of their name.
Another explanation can be that in the 17th century parish priests did cover the Sinterklaas gifts for the poor children with a bedsheet. On top of all this, they did lay a letter of bread, it is said this would have been the first letter of the child his name, so that the child knew where his gifts did lay, but as J.W. Koning rightly says, In those days could poor childrenAnother explanation may be that in the 17th century parish priests the Sinterklaas gifts for the poor children covered with a bed sheet. On top of all this, they handed them a letter of bread, it is said that the first letter of his name that would have been that child so that the child knew where his gift lay of the child, but as J.W. King rightly says: In that time, poor children usually could not read, not even the first letter of their name.
More likely, it was the first character of the name of a Saint or just the S from Saint, a Character which could be used for all Saints. This use than been the forerunner of the current banquet letter (still usually a S.)
Chocolate characters were only introduced somewhere in the 19th century. Until then, the characters were made from bread or banquet.
Nowadays some people submit a related to the Germanic culture. Germanic children received Rune sign as a gift at their birth, this (simple) necklage and rune they then wear for luck. J.W. Koning points again on the illogically in seeing that connection. In that time were they started with Bread characters, there were already goodluck charms simmilar to these Necklages with Runes existing and used within the Christian Church, think f.e. on a Medallion with the image of a Saint or a Christoffel penning hanging as a pendant around the neck. And for the Christian Church had such a custom, there and also before the Germanic culture existed, a simmilar thing existed at other ancient cultures. Bv at the Egyptians it was a sculpture in the form of a God of protection, the Azteces had there own images. Yet nowhere in the time periode were they did start with these bread characters, nobody is refering to a good luck charm. Now it would be strange if such a widespread custom which was wellknown to the people, should be accidentally forgotten to mention, by all people. That they did not mention it, means simply that it didn't originate from that. Let's face it, there really is a big difference between a luck bringer that with your birth is hung around your neck and you then carry for almost your whole life, and a means of identification (what gift is for whom) what one gets on a later age and that is eaten very shortly after you did recive it (To Us, Being eaten does not seem to be the ideal form of luckcharm, just kidding). In our opinion there is therefore no mythological connection with the runes, the Teutons or Wodan.
Recipe for Marzipan
|Marzipan is named after a certain Saint Marcus who love was very fond on this sweet treat. Marzipan means Marci-pane or bread of Marcus.
Marzipan Nicolaas treats came only later in vogue, and were for a long time only reserved to the rich people.
It is made from Almond bread with Indian cane sugar, used as a medicine in the middle ages. The figurines were often in the form of a piglet or pig.
The wild boar was a Germanic symbol of the hunt and was in ancient times regularly sacrificed. After the Church banned animal sacrifices, the boar was replaced by his second-cousin: the marzipan pig.
- 300 grams powdersugar
- 4 tablespoons flower
- 100 grams butter
- 4 drops almond-extract
- several colors baking-colordust
- 300 gram poedersuiker
- 4 eetlepels bloem
- 100 gram boter
- 4 druppels amandelextract
- verschillende kleuren bakkleurstof
|Method of Preparation:
- Knead it well together into a ball.
- You can color marzipan by adding some drops of baking-colorpowder.
- When you can find no dyepowder or not allowed to eat then you can also use beet juice for Red Marzipan, or greengage syrup for green marzipan or carrot juice for Orange marzipan.
The putting of the shoes on the early morning of 6 december:
|When this custom did start or was mentioned for the first time can notbe traced anymore. In Spain and France it was in the 16th century alreay a common custom to have a good friend over on 5 december to give him a present. This was hiden in the House. Usually in a shoe, so that the giver could be sure that it would be found, if not already found during the search, then definitely when the shoe was fetched to put ir on again. This custom was/is called Zapato (shoe).
These shoes were not put in front of a fireplace or chimney, but were placed on usual locations in the House, with the one was that f.e. in the hallway next to the door, with another was that besides the bed and so there were still a few more 'standard' places. (Read also 'gifts and/or presents down the chimney'.)
In the Netherlands in some parishes poor children were allowed to put their clog or shoe in the Church, sometimes was that on 11 november (Saint Martin), sometimes on 5 december (St. Nicholas), sometimes it was that at Christmas. The oldest Dutch entry is found in the archives of the St. Nicholas Church in Utrecht. There are children putting their shoes ever since 1427, which they find filled with goodies the next morning. This is thus a very old custom. Shoe putting in the Church is still happening nowadays, but now it's no longer just for the poor children but for all children (look for a picture of it in the Grote Kerk in Edam-Volendam on: Grote Kerk in Edam-Volendam.)
The tradition that they would be put at the stove/fireplace/chimney is of much later times.
Putting the shoe during the run-up to 'pakjesavond'=Saint Nicholas Eve (e.g. on the day of the Arrival) is of yet later time and is here on this page therfore also what later (further to the back) in the list.
Gifts and Presents through the Chimney:
The chimney (and the smoke of fire) was, at least according to the Germans, the connection between the people and the ' upper world ' where ghosts and gods live. In Scandinavian countries a letter to Santa is still often throwen in the fire, the smoke then ensures that it will reach Santa Claus.
Wodan was in charge of the fire, so he didn't have to be afraid that the gifts would burn in the fire below after throwing them down the chimney.
The custom that Saint Nicholas does throw the presents down the chimney would therefore seem to be borrowed from Wodan, but whether that also indicates a mythological connection between Wodan and the Saint?
J.W. Koning writes in his Sinterklaas and Santa Claus Archive: In very old stories is often stated that Saint Nicholas brought or threw the gifts through the roof. The chimney or the smokehole are there not mentioned at all in those stories. The statement would be as follows: In a thatched roof was often easy to make an opening along the under edge to throw something inside. And with roofs covered with tiles/slates the poor often would not have still no roof boards, so lift up a rooftile a bit and throw something inside would be a piece of cake for the Saint.
Note: In most of the villages and smaller cities also the door of such a House would not have been lockedin the old times, one trusted his neighbors, so throwing through the roof would then not even have been necessary.
In addition, putting the shoe at fireplace or stove would in that time also have been very unlikely because the people knew very well knew that leather dries out and shrinks by rapid drying or excessive heating. Leather shoes/boots would therefore become to tight. Shoes/boots will so preverable be put on the other side of the room. F.e. next to the door.
Dry stockings (short socks are from much later) were usually kept on at night, so the only thing that would hang around the fireplace or stove would be wet clothes and wet stockings. And it would not be helpful to put candies in wet stockings. So the chimney was also not necessary to be able to throw the gifts in the shoes or stockings. A necessary link between Saint and Wodan is there therfore not. Though one can later have thought it to be a very nice story to tell that the gifts came down the chimney. Presumably is this story even based on or borrowed from the Wodan story, but that still doesn't make the mythological interpretation true, that the Saint was or is the successor of Wodan.
The relationship between whether or not listen to the chimney by Wodan's black raven and/or his servant Eckhard and by Saint Nicholas friend and servant 'Black' Pete, we will discuss in the block about 'Black' Pete.
The Surprises and the hiding the Gifts:
When putting the shoe we wrote already: gifts as surprise from the 16th century. In Spain and France it was in the 16th century alreay a common custom to have a good friend over on 5 december to give him a present. This was hiden in the House. Usually in a shoe, so that the giver could be sure that it would be found, if not already found during the search, then definitely when the shoe was fetched to put ir on again. This custom was/is called Zapato (shoe). Often, these presents did have also a surprising content
The custom with poems come from the 17th century. Then it was quite common to declarea poem or rhyme or a verse at festivities. This because a lot of the people could not read and write so they could getting to know a verse when it was declared. So there were certainly also poems or declared verses at a party like the Nicholas celebration. One who could read and write would made them hisself, others would have them write by someone who could write.
And just as the teasing with a 'sweetheartdoll', you could also tease people through a little poem, or you could indicate through a little poem what (presumably) was in the parcel.
And so the Sinterklaas poems tradition did arise gradually.
A little trick to make a Sinterklaas poem, begin with the first line of a Sinterklaas song and go from there all rhyming to a story about the receiver, or about the content of the parcel, or about the search for the gift.
Spain: (as homeland for the Saint, mentioned for the firsttime around 1810)
Why does the Saint come from Spain?
The people give different explanations for it.
- Because Spain was a rich and exotic country, with exotic fruits.
- Because before the eighty years ' war Spain was the ruler in the Netherlands.
- Because he is buried in Bari (which was a Spanish Crown Colony).
In our view, it is this last option.
The most likely explanation we found in the Sinterklaas and Santa Claus archive from J.W. Koning.
There stood the following important entry, which most other 'Sinterklaas' biographers often seem to forget.
In addition to the fact that due to the reformation the Saint Nicholas worshiping and thus also the Saint-Nicholas feast moved from the streets to the privacy of the homes, there was another important thing happened.
Saint Nicholas was suddenly no longer a Saint who occasionally descended from heaven to do miracles and to bring gifts. That couldn't be anymore due to the Reformation. So he did became more Earthbound, and therefore he had to come from somewhere else as from heaven.
J.W. Koning states: Both for history as for fiction is the most simple explanation often the correct one, because everything is based on telling tales and to children was usually told the simplest explanation, so for the Traditions is usually also a simple explanation.
Also now we often hear children ask, "mother where does Sinterklaas live, where can I visit him?". Now a Saint is actually s death person who lives nowhere, but you can visit him, to his grave. So on the question where can I find or visit Sinterklaas, followed the answer "In Bari", child: "Where is that?", answer: "In Spain".
And that was again, by the children, conceived and passed on to their children and grandchildren as: Sinterklaas lives in Spain. Mind you! That part of present-day Italy where Bari is, was in those days a Spanish Crown domain.
And, says J.W. Koning, actually you can leave the piece "In Bari", "where is that?" also away. Any more than most parents of now know that St. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra and that he is buried in Bari, would the parents of the past that have known. Takes into account the fact that those parents had less education then and certainly less knowledge of geography as the parents of now. So in the beginning the question will probably be answered by a schoolmaster or pastor, and the children came home with the news "Sinterklaas lives in Spain". And the parents, the neighbors, the aunts and uncles and acquaintances thought, "That's fine, now we also have an answer".
The assumption that as residence for Madrid chosen is because if you take Myra and Bari together then you can almost construct Madrid from that is noncence according to J.W. Koning. Precisely because most ordinary people knew nothing of Myra or Bari. It did become Madrid because that was probably the only important city in Spain that they knew. And if the teacher or priest in his reply that the Saint has lived in Spain, also called Madrid as residence, then also from the thought, that is probably the only place in Spain where they (the children and their parents) who've heard of, and therefore would fit in their world of imatinations.
The oldest wish list that still exists is one of 3 december 1793. An Amsterdam girl wrote to St. Nicholas that she would like to get a white bow, because her Sunday bow was already so dirty. She also asked for a piece of lace and 'some snack'. In return she promised Saint Nicholas to listen better to her father and mother and the priest. "I wil also get up somewhat earlier in the morning'. The note was signed with 'Hend; Mar; Ten Oever' (Hendrika Maria Ten Oever). If she did received it all and if she did keep her promises, we don't know.
Steamboat: (for the first time mentioned around 1844):
|Saint Nicholas saved distressed mariners and is next to patron of nubile youth, students, merchants and travellers also the patron of sailors.
So the idea: He can come with a boat here was actually not at all weird, especially as that in addition to the horse also his luggage (the gifts extra costumes etc.) needed transport. Incidentally, it was in those times also not unusual that Sinterklaas did shop in the Netherlands for gifts he bought there. So he did not need to take a full boatload of luggage with him.
Why the steamer and not a big sailing ship?
As with the choice for the white horse was also here chosen for something special. And what could possibly be more special as the then newly commissioned steamers?
In those days, most people had never seen such a boat. So it was an exciting and thrilling story that Sinterklaas would come with a steamer and that you could see the Saint and the steamer. And the added benefit was that even with front-wind, the Saint could come right on time. That strain from does he comes and does he come on time etc., is nowadays still present in the Arrivals.
The Large Book: (for the first time mentioned around 1844)
||For 1850 was the book that Sinterklaas on icons and images in his hand had, just his Bishops Bible, but around 1850, it was replaced by the official Large Book where the Saint does write in everything. All the Saint should does hear (by the Picts, by parents, teachers etc) does come noted in the big book, just like notes about the Arrivals, Parades and home visits etc.
Sinterklaas has of course several Large Books because otherwise all Info would not fit in.
So every year he does use new Large Books, f.e. for all large cities such as Amsterdam he has one for each of them, but also for whole provinces such as bv Drenthe and Groningen etc he has one for each of them.
Peterman Servant (Pieterman Knecht): Black Pete (for the first time mentioned Black Pete around 1891)
Sinterklaas used to have only 1 helper. During his lifetime had Nicholas thus Nicodemus as a helper. In later stories and appearances, he was usually alone and did very rarely have a helper with him. Described is that he in 1828 when visiting an Amsterdam family was accompanied by a servant with black frizzy hair and a negriode face.
In 1844 he was awarded in Jan Schenkman his book a dark servant (from India? according to his clothes?) as a helper. In later editions of that book was a black (Moorish? again according to his clothes) helper who had no name in the first edition, and in a later edition was called Pete and in an again later editoin was called Black Pete. The name Black Pete did appear for the first time in 1891. So having a servant is an already older custom, but having a servant named Zwarte Piet is thus only a custom since around 1891. About the origin of this servant are different stories. And so there are also different ideas arisen why he would be black.
Below we set this ideas about his origin and his being black on a row and we treat them with objective logic.
- Wodan had always two black Ravens flying around him. Does Black Pete existence originate from one of them?
- Or is he Eckhart, the servant of Wodan, Black with soot from listening at- and looking through the chimneys and smokeholes?
- Some experts say that Black Pete originally was a black devil. Saint Nicholas was the good, to underline this, he needed an opposite: the bad devil. For example, Black Pete.
- Or is Black Pete a morish servant from NorthľAfrica. Could Black Pete come from there?
- Since the years 1980's, the question if Black Pete was a Slavesymbol was added to this row.
J.W. Koning states: If Black Pete would have been Eckhart the servant, he would have been in the Sinterklaas stories already from the beginning. It were the Vikings that brought the stories about Nicholas to the rest of Europe. They surely would not have remoevd items from the story that did refer to Wodan. The same is true if Black Pete would stand for 1 of the raven. And then there would most likely have been also 2 Petes. So there is no detectable mythological connection. It is still possible that Black Pete borrowed some skills (e.g. listening to chimneys) from Eckhart. On the other hand, in that periode everybody who did sweep chimneys could tell you that you could hear a lot at chimneys, just like windowcleaners do see a lot. So also not neccesseraly a mytholocigally reason.
Than the explanation that some experts do give, namely that Black Pete is an altered image of the bearded devil. (This is also the vision of Karl Meisen). In the middle ages the devil played a large role in the faith of the people. A Saint who also happens to be called Nicholas, was in the 6th century known as someone who could tame the devil. Saint Nicholas was the good. He gave gifts and rewarded anyone who was nice. In opposite of the good there had to be the bad: a sinister figure: like Servant Ruprecht in Germany, a bearded white man who indeed had chimney soot on his face like Saint Nicholas his first helper Nicodemus. Until Black Pete came the helpers of Sinterklaas did look a lot like him.
Or the wicked Devil: like the creepy Saint Nicholas escorts in some foreign countries like Krampus in the Alpine region, a devil adorned with the skin of a black sheep, and Pere Fouettard in France, literally: Father Whip, about whom was told that he had three children beaten to death. Figures from whom Black Pete would be arisen according to this experts. He was Naughty like the devil, wore a rod and the bag for the naughty children. But he did have everything Sinterklaas asked him. This seems at first glance to be a possible connection.
But J.W. Koning says; Note that these stories about Ruprecht, Krampus and Pere Fouettard already do exist since the 6e Century and that the Saint Nicholas worship and legends also really started around the 6th century. If that connection between Black Pete and this Figures was there, then Sinterklaas would have had this kind of servant with him in the stories and legend straight from the start. Which is not the case, except for a Figure simmilar to Ruprecht. But its more likely that both he and Pete do originate from Nicodemus then it is that Pete does originate from him, so there is no definitive Originating from Krampus or Pere Fouettard. So Black Pete does have another origin and another appearance as Krampus and Pere Fouettard, but did later get some of the looks and aspects of hem. It should also be clear, that figures from legends which originated in the 6th until 9th century do have no connection with the slave culture from the 19th and 20th century.
From the story that Saint bought an Ethiopian boy named Piter on a slave market in Myra and him freed from slavery, after which this Piter voluntarily came into the service of Saint Nicholas, does this last part show holes. Although it is more likely (because given the slavery and when that was there) that this fact must be attributable to Nicholas of Pinara, but then it would just as well have been part of the Saint Nicholas legends. Nicholas of Pinara was also one of the Nicolazen who modelled for Saint Nicholas.
||Yet another explanation is that he is black because he does work much in or around chimneys. But J.W. Koning says about this: Already as a child I found that this wasn't right, because Piet was already dark when he just did come from Spain with the steamer and not had been near a chimney. Also his clothes were always clean and my own testing proved that I sooner got black soth on my clothes as on my face. And it also not right to assume that he did never wash himself while being in Spain. And we know of the miners that although their skin after repeatedly washing still showed black pores but certainly not a completely black/dark skin. And also you get from climbing the chimneys no frizzy hair and thick lips. Pete still can have been black from soot or stove Polish, but then that's not by accident, but then he has done that intentionally. Only logical reason is camouflage, thus not standing out in the dark and not being recognized as 'this or those' help Pete during Arrivals and Parades.
That the people did start thinking at that time: A dark person?, thus from Africa, therefore thus black and with thick lips and frizzy hair, was actually pretty obvious. But it is no fixed item, Pete can also be Antillian or Moluccan (there were also antilian and molucan Petes much later), as wel as Arab or Chinese. J.W. Koning says: "And then the latter in a Petes costume which has somethings from their culture with instead of the beret a headpiece from their own ancient culture. Seems brilliant to me".
But also there, in those legends the Saint would have that servant already with him when these legends stories did arise. So all in the stories from the 7th century. And that too is not the case.
The most probable is (and so it is also concluded in the Sinterklaas and Santa Claus archive from J.W. Koning), that he just is dark colored for camouflage (less recognizable as 'Uncle Hank' or the neighbor or the Butcher from around the corner). Just as the first servant Nicodemus made his face dark and just like that the school children at the Innocent Children feast did dress-up and disguised themselves.
What then remains is not the reason why he is black or dark (camouflage), but the explanation for it, thus Piet is not black because he originally was a black slave (which he was not), but he's did became a Moorish servant because he needed an excuse to have a darkened face. And that dark-making was in the early 20th century done for the same reason as Nicodemus did it for, to be less visible in the evenings and during the nights. Because in those years (Black) Pete did seldom performed in the spotlight during the day.
As J.W. Koning in his archive already did state: The fact that a dark Spanish servant in Moorish clothing, is indeed just a Moorish servant, is the most likely story. And therefore is the assumption that the servant was actually a servant and no slave also the most likely.
Of course it is, he says, all a matter of interpretation, but why would you want to look for strange contrived negative interpretations if there are innocent interpretations that are more simpler and more logical. After all we are talking about a Festival for children and even more so, we are talking about a popular festival for all children of any race or color.
Although Pete already had a Negroid appearance here and there, still he performed mostly with a dark camouflaged face (dark sweep). The big change came in 1945 at the hands of the American liberators. Black Pete did from 1945 up to 1985 for years become a Negro´de outlook, and he changed then from an all-rounder in a somewhat stupid man. Note that the Pete interpreters did not spoke bad Dutch on purpose to make Pete look stupid, but just because they themselves could not speak it better. Also this was definitely not as negative rating for 'Negroes' meant, because a lot of them were 'Negro soldiers' who in 1945 did play Pete with a lot of fun. It was them who changed Pete from the Punnisher into the childrens friend and funny playmate.
In those years it did not disturb the people (net even dark skinned people) that Pete did speak a kind of pidgeon Dutch, but unfortunately it did became an issue about forty years later. But fortunately only for a small minority. The majority (also under dark colored people) sees the dark disguised as a harmless part of the Saint-Nicholas party. In fact, in the American film "Santa and Pete" are the descendants of Pete very proud on their ancestor. In the film they argue that Pete the friend and egual valued helper of Saint Nicholas was. They also argue that without Pete Saint Nicholas would never had coem to America and that therefore there a Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus Feast without Pete would be not a real Santa/Nicholas celebration. This demonstrates again that the temporary black appearance of (Black) Pete has nothing to do with negative discrimination.
In the years 1980 Black Pete did became suddenly, precisely because of that Negro face painting, under fire. That he assigned as black boy would only get the function of a stupid servant, refered according to some people to the slavery, what would be offending for the increasing number of coloured Dutch. A certain line in the song 'There is a knock at the door' was very specific cited: 'Even though I'm black as soot, yet I'm good'. Some people see in it the confirmation of discrimination, "I am a Negro but nevertheless, I'm good".
A simple explanation (and therefore the presumably exactly the correct one) is that children (also African children) are automatically afraid of faces with a dark and/or severe appearance (including a black Peter face, especially under the stress of the whole festival). You all know that people are more afraid of a black dog then they are of a white dog, dark (e.g. the darkness of the night) is sooner experienced as threatening as light, The dark of the evening and night invites us to stay in the savety of our homes, the light of an summersun invites us to go outside. The text of this song means nothing else as simple take away that instintive fear for the dark.
And the fact that in an old version of this song the line reads: "Even though I'm black from soot, I mean it still good") does changes nothing on that point of taking away the instinctive fear for dark things. J.W. Koning couldn't figure out which of these two lines is the oldest one (and therefore probably the original one). However, he himself does prefer this 2nd line.
Fortunately, started many experts pointing againack tothe fact that Black Pete was no Negro-slave but infact was a free Moor. The last time does Black Piet/Peterman servant/MasterPete now increasingly appear everywhere with a lighter brown facecolor, which gives also a friendlier impression. And so he gets little by little his old status back of a smart and useful Assistant of Sinterklaas. In his Footboy/Page-suit he portrays than a nice friendly lad, who fits very well in the exotic cultures in the current Netherlands. Whereby also no-one would have reason anymore to feel themselves offended to his appearance.
But, sometimes there is still discussion again. In the late 1990s (Black) Pete may suddenly no longer have a Netherlands Antilles appearance and may no longer talk with a Netherlands Antilles accent, that was discrimination by white people said some. The fact is, though, that most of those Petes were Netherlands Antilles Help Petes who voluntarily and with great fun did their Petes tasks. So no at all white people who made Netherlands Antilles ridiculous, but Antilles who wanted to contribute (and wanted to bring their cultural input!!) to this Festival of all people.
Recently (2011) was the arrival of Sinterklaas in New Westminster, a suburb of Vancouver in Canada, called off because of the alleged slave character of (Black) Pete. After heated arguments arose about the allegedly racist character of the servants of Saint the festivities were canceled. It just proves how growen-up (so-called adult) people can be short-sighted and small in their thinking, and how an innocent children's Festival can be abused for political propaganda. Because those same people take for example total no offense to the fact that their Santa Claus only has 'little people' as helpers.
And who were just as childishly gullible presented. How discriminatory is that for people with dwarfism or other growth disorders? No body length therefore no brain? And that while thus color, wig, earrings and thick lips only serve to make Pete identifiable as a Pete and also unrecognizable as the private person he is when he's not is employed by the Saint. A Pete with earrings a an Elf with pointed ears, what's the difference? A Pete with thick lips (actually never more used) or pointed ears, what's the difference? Why accept the one (Pointed ears, learned as a child?) and forbid the other (Dark face, seen as an adult?)
And then this: "Sinterklaas may ride a horse and Pete must walk, if that is not a slaves symbol is, well then I do not know". Nonsense of course, says J.W. Koning. There are many examples that this has nothing do with a slave culture or with references to a slave culture. Traditional: In the early arrival and stories about arrivals the rare Piet who came with the Saint did mostly ride on a horse (not a white one). If there had been a relationship to some slave culture, than that Pete (in that time, right after the slave time) surely would not have been riding a horse. Comparison with contemporary use: The dutch Queen rides in the golden carriage, the palfreniers (servants)do walk next to it. The president of the USA rides in a car and highly skilled and highly intelligent FBI agents walk alongside the car. All this has nothing to do with a slaves culture, but with functionality. Similarly at Sinterklaas Arrivals and Parades: The old Sinterklaas does not run anymore and must therefore be on a horse, otherwise he can not keep up with the Parade. The Petes do not want to ride on a horse themselves, because on a horse they can not shake hands with the children, talk to the children or give them candy.
And if all petes would ride on a horse, then all those many horses would be a logistics problem.
Where, for that matter, it should be noted that the so called 'slave' culture much older is as the short periode of American Negro slaves. If we go back in time one step further: the Romans had slaves (both white-even Roman!- as African), the Normans/Vikings (Europe) already had slaves (most white European slaves), the Jews had slaves (even Jewish slaves!), and before that the Egyptians had slaves. So on seeing a black character and immediately think it is a slave because he is black, and therefore prohibit that character, that is in fact discrimination. And that's not the only wrong and discriminatory view that opponents of Black Pete often express.
Incidentally there are among the defenders of the Sinterklaas tradition also many who do not know what they are talking about and then coe with incorrect arguments. We do not see it as our duty to treat all those arguments here or refute. We only present that factual and legal, the Sinterklaas feast itself does not discriminate. But getting a wrong impression of the Sinterklaas feast can also be experienced as hurtful. And yes there are also (white) Bastards in the Netherlands who give wrong and discriminatory comments. So No, Sinterklaas and his Feast or tradition do not discriminateb. And yes, some bastard do misuse the Feast to create discrimination situations.
But all of them (the proponents, opponents, and the bastards) they forget the most important: "Sinterklaas was and is never out there to discriminate and/or to hurt people and he wants also that his feast does not hurt somebody".
Most (Black) Pete therefore stay balck no matter what? NO, any kind of camouflage (color or mask or ??) is alright, however the nightPetes presumably will still prever a dark color.
May the clothes and hair and earrings of Pete changes? Yes, that we have already seen a number of times (for example Petes with Dreadlocks or bows in their hair and without earrings)
So does (Black) Pete has to stay "Black Pete/Zwarte Piet" no matter what? No way, 'Servant Pete/Pieterman knecht' does work just as well, just take a look in Belgium. And Sint says already very often 'Pete' or my 'Petes' without the 'Black' there for. Therefore appealing to 'Pete' (or using the Pete his name f.e. Diego, Testpete etc) and appointing to (or talking about) them as 'Pete' or 'Pieterbaas/MasterPete' or 'Peterman servant' is according to J. W. Koning the best solution.
J.W. Koning does state though: Forced and sudden changes will never work and can bring children mental damage. And also a thing like "There is a white Piet born" does not help (and certainly not quick) because there have been several Movies with a white Pete and almost nobody knows that.
But gradual steps that also be announced in advance, and that connect to the personal empathy of children, are easily accepted. And so the story can from year to year be adjusted a little further until all children do know that the Petes have all races.
The first step is therefore explain that Sinterklaas in Spain but a handful Petes has, and that in any country where he come ther are HelpPetes for him, and that the rest of the year these HelpPieten are ordinary people. Who they are? Well, that is the secret of the Petes (or the Petes secret) and that remains the secret of the Petes because they masquerade/camouflage themselves. And a film about this (that the Petes use camouflage), or better still a story about this on Televison around the National Arrival would therefore be an important first step.
The Costume of Pete:
The clothing of Pete is a type of page-suit/footboy-suit from the 16th-17th-century. At the royal courts the servants usually had such clothing. This is probably why, according to the tradition the assistance of Sinterklaas do have a similar costume. This is not, therefore, the uniform of the Spanish soldiers from the 80-year-long war, though it appears that way, but that do all costumes from that time.
The Costume of Pete does exist of:
- Beret, also known as hat. On the side of the beret are usually one or more colored feathers, almost always secured with a beretpin. They hang from the front with an angle (over the beret) to the back. In the past these feathers were placed in the front of the beret (or center at the front of the beret) a stood rightup, as you see in old-Persia also at turbans.
- Jacket, this is often of velvet, trimmed with gold braid. Often has the sleevepiece from shoulder to elbow a fuller model (rounded up model) or other forms of decoration on it. More important Petes, like for example the HeadPete have also a cape hanging from the shoulders on the back of their jacket.
- Collar, on the jacket comes a white collar. This can be in the pleated edition as they carried him in the Spanish time, but he can also be smooth as the collars of the golden age. Both the pleated collar as the smooth collar can be made in 1 layer but they can also have multiple layers over each other. The collars are usually of cotton, trimmed with lace, in a slightly more luxurious implementation they are completely made of lace.
- Cuffs or sleeves, these are white marketing pieces of sleeves for the luxurious appearance. Often of cotton, trimmed with lace. These too can both pleated as smooth, and they can also single layer or multi-layer.
- Pants. Nowadays this is usually reaching a below the knee again as the Petes did were in the past (see picture with Piet at the chimney) but then in a slightly more graceful model, and otherwise, it's often a below the knee-reaching wide pants. They are usually made of velvet and possibly trimmed with gold braid. From 1900 to ca 1990 was generally a shorter knickerbockers were the pants did end above the knees. (See picture opposite) Because that did look too much on the pants of the Spanish soldiers, the Petes changed it again. The colors of the pants are in General in accordance with the colors of the Jacket.
- Maillot, these are usually black, or in a color that fits at the Piet costume.
Exceptions to this are the white tights (ceremonial stockings) that more important Petes wear during the Arrival, the Parade or home visits.
- Shoes. During their work many Petes wear workshoes, walking shoes, sports shoes or sneakers, that depends on what their work is. If they have to do much lugging then they wear heavy shoes, if they have to do much walking then they wear walking shoes, the climbers use athletic shoes or trainers and in the stable they use of course boots. At home in Petes House they wear comfortable shoes or slippers.
The older and what superior Petes (supervisor Petes) wearing outdoors mainly black leather shoes and then usually with a buckle on it (just like the white Maillot is that ceremonial clothing).
- Gloves. The Petes wear (long) black gloves, because in the Netherlands is is often much colder as in Spain. The rare exceptions are white gloves worn by the Petes in the Sinterklaas archive, such as the Libarian-Pete. And of course the doctor/nurse-Petes.
||Birch branches with bamboo or a ribbon around it, symbol of fertility, and convenient to clean the chimneys (what from the look Pete's dark appearance may not be the best method) also described as punnishment-tool, but that's not how (Black) Pete does see it.
||The large bags are used to bring the Gifts, in the smaller bags are the throwing goodies. And that story about naughty boys who are taken in a bag to Spain for punishment? Well, that is not true.
That misunderstanding has arisen, because there was once a naughty boy, who had run away from home and who wanted to go to Spain. He had secretly hide himself in a Bag between the other (empty) bags, and so he was moved on board unnoticed.
When they discovered him at sea (To not suffer from hunger he had eaten from the carrots for the white horse), he was punnished ofcourse and then put on a passing boat so he could be brought back home.
To act tough, he told his friends of course that the Petes had taken him. And so do stories arise that are not true.
Almound Pastry Characters
An Almound Pastry Character, is a O-, S-, M- or (Topdown), a W-shaped bar of puff pastry filled with almond paste. At some supermarkets they speak also of almond character or, if he is straight almond bar.
Sometimes is instead of the expensive almond paste a filling used based on legumes (white beans), which is called Bakers-pastry. One speaks of a butter character when the puff pastry made with just creambutter.
Almound Pastry Characters are in the Netherlands usually eaten around Sinterklaas and Christmas.
- 400 grams almond paste
- 2 egs
- 1-2 tablespoon grated lemon or orange peel
- 1-2 tablespoon whipped cream
- 7-8 slices of thawed frozen puff pastry
|Method of Preparation:
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Knead the almond paste with 1 egg, lemon zest and the whipped cream to a smooth mixture. Form this into a long role of about 60 cm.
- Place the slices dough one after another, so that the edges overlap each other 1 cm. Press the dough edges well together and roll the edges smooth with a rolling pin. This makes a long dough sheet of about 62 x 10 cm.
- Add role almond paste in the middle of the dough sheet and fold the dough around the almond paste. Press the dough edges well together and if you wish, you can use a little water.
- Place the role dough with the seam to the bottom on the baking sheet and form the role into a letter or rod.
- Beat 1 egg up, with 1 teaspoon water and brush the Almond Character/Bar with it.
- Bake the pastry in about 35 minutes light brown and ready in the middle of the oven.
Saint Nicholas Eve:
In the old time the new day did not start at 24.00 hours in the middle of the night, but at 18.00 hours in the evening. Just like Christmas Eve is the eve before Christmas. So when it was after 6 pm on 5 december, it actually was already 6 december. That is why Saint Nicholas Eve is not on 6 december, but on the evening of 5 december.
Adults and older kids celebrated the Sinterklaasfeast together in the evening with hot chocolate or mulled wine (bishop wine) and a Almond Pastry Character. Sometimes they gave each other funny gifts without giving away who the giver was.
Or brother/sister gave a 'Sweetheart' to another brother/sister to tease him/her with the fact that he/she had a crush on a boy/girl. The small children which already were to bed, found the following morning on 6 december something in their shoe. The same you see now also at Santa Claus.
The phenomenon "pakjesavond" came only really to blossom after the second world war. The increasing prosperity made this possible, so a special give-culture arose. Also companies now gave presents to the children of employees.
Because the Feast was celebrated on a massive scale now, and children often do not wanted go to school the morning of the 6th december savages (stress or sleeping badly or because the new toys so provoked) giving the presents did for the smallest children also move to the evening of the 5th December.
Now the whole family could together celebrated the 'pakjes avond' (Saint Nicholas Eve).
Also this phenomenon, you see now at the christmas party, if there are no small children, the gifts are often already given and opened on christmas eve.
In addition, Christmas has a third, very nice variant (because it's always a free day), the whole family will find their parcels in the morning under the christmas tree.
Besides that, is it on Saint Nicholas Eve('pakjesavond') not only aboute the more useful gifts anymore, but the adults and older children make surprises themselves to increase the exitment and they often make poems. In that poetry you are allowed to tell the truth to each other in a friendly way. Sinterklaas is, after all, a fair, rightious man. He does look at everyone's good and bad qualities.
Putting the shoesin the run-up to the Saint Nicholas Eve:
What remains are the questions: How often should/can you let the kids put their shoe? And what should be in that shoe?
Now, to start with, we consider that the children put their shoe the first time may be on the Saturday night of the National Arrival, after all, it is then said on TV that the children may put their shoe that evening. So that should apply as a rule, anyhow.
And after that first saturday it's all about how you as a parent to want to do it. Some say then only the last Saturday night before Saint Nicholas Eve, others say every Saturday night from the National Arrival until to Saint Nicholas Eve, yet others say every Wednesday and
Saturday night and then are there those who say every night until Saint Nicholas Eve. And sometimes they are also put on school 1 time, in hte local supermarket 1 time and often also with Grandma and grandpa 1 time.
These differences could lead to conflicts, e.g. with separated/divorced parents whodo things differently, when and how often at the one, and when and how often at the other, or between best friends where their families do differ in how often and when.
Therefore, we are going tho give are a few tips (and tricks) here, which can help to avoid this type of conflicts. They are not obligated to follow, it is up to you to determine whether you do find them useful and want to use them or not.
The first tip: Don't over do it, we will refer to this later.
Second tip: When to start. Well, you can start putting the shoe on the evening of the National Arrival, in our opinion is what candy in the shoe than sufficient, the Saint has after all enough on his hands by that National Arrival and the smaller Arrivals/Parades later on that day in other places.
There really has been no time for rapping up gifts, etc.
And here the first Trick: If you add that first time a note with a schoe-put-calendar (example comes on the page with drawings, etc) which shows when and where and with whom their shoe may be put, then the children know what the can expect. And will not have the disappointment of an occasional empty shoe and the idea that the Saint might be forgotten him/her.
When a child likes to put the shoe again a time be between the days on that calendar, then they do not necessarily have to get something in their shoe, it is also possible that they give somthing to the Saint, Pete or the Horse (Like a drawing, a carrot etc). There is than in return no bag of candy or gift needed in the shoe, a Thank-you-note from the Saint or Pete with 2-3 'peppernuts' is at least as exciting as a smal gift. (=Trick 2) Just like a smal gift, they can show this also to friends, on school, grandparents a.s.o., which is exiting enough.
In this way you can keep the number of times putting the shoe on the level what the child can handle on tension, and you can also keep the number of times that the child gets a gift to the level that you want.
How many times may the shoe be put down for a treat:
We advise not more than 1 time a week at home to get something in the shoe, specially with the smallest children, who may not even understand what precisly is happening. Exceptions would be for example one extra time at school, at grandfather and grandmother's home, with the other parent, or at the local supermarket.
If all that is playing, and even in several weeks, you can therefore easily reach 2 times a week. You will see that standard of 1 time a week at home is not so little yet. Of course, one can also say: That week (that weekend) when they place their shoe for example by grandpa and grandma, they can not place him at home. In our opinion a good rule, but this will depend on what the child can handle on level of tension and also on how many times you want them to get some small gifts.
Slightly less often than the child can handle is not bad, it just makes it more fun when it gets something. More often than the child can handle, will take a lot of the fun away for the child. (overdoing it makes it boring). And remember our Tip: A letter or note from (or for) the Saint is just as exiting as a smal shoe gift.
Should/may the children get only sweets in the shoe at the shoe putting, or may there also be a small present/toy in it and how often.
It may! After all, in the old stories did the children get all their presents (on Saint Nicholas morning) in their shoes.
However, we would advise to give not to often a present or toy in the shoe. A simple help (rule?) at grandpa and grandma's home a small present? Then the next time home again some sweets. After all, for every gift that they (or other children) get in their shoe, that child will get a gift less on Saint Nicholas Eve. (=pedagogical tip teaches them that there are limits) And immediately solves the question: Why has he/she a gift in the shoe and I have not?.
Keep in mind that you can also do a little joke with candy (=trick 3) (e.g Throwing peppernuts in the form of a character), so it is no longer just 'simple candy'. Or You create tracks in the hallway or in the garden whereon children can see that Saint and Pete have been visiting (E.g. printing of a horseshoe, small pile of horse manure, etc.). Then your child has something special to ell on school.
Trust us, such a joke, together with a little bit of candy does has for a child at least as much value as a small present without a joke.
And then the second to last tip: Shoe gifts do not need to be expensive, A coloring booklet, a few stickers etc are sometimes enough. Small gifts are in fct preferable, something that we hear quit often from the pedagogical specialists at schools and kindergartens.
After the second-to-last tip follows, of course, the last tip: Put one of first the times next to the candy also a uncolored example of a wish list (for example, on the Page with drawings) in the shoe. After the cilren have colored it and filled in that list, then they can a few days later place it in their shoe again so that the Saint can find it.
That makes it all the more real for the child, and be coloring of that wish list and preparing the wishes on the list your child has a mental controle ('letting steam off') over his eager awaiting for the next time the shoe can be put and for Saint Nicholas Eve.
Long before the Chocolate Characters there already existed in the Netherlands Cake Characters and of course Pastry Characters. Cake Characters were already present on still-life Paintings with food from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The tradition of edible Characters would, according to Frits Booy in 'St. Nicholas from A to Z', recourse to the custom on medieval monastery schools to learn students to write using moveable Characters of bread dough, which could be eaten as a reward.
This is the most likely explanation. Another explanation which Booy does suppose is the habit in the nineteenth century to cover the Sinterklaas gifts with a sheet on which the first letter of the childs name is placed, made from bread dough.
As stated earlier, it is unlikely that it was there the first Character of the name of the child, because this custom often occurred in the churches were it was done for the children of the poor and most of hose children could not read, Not even the first Character of their own names.
Of course there were exceptions, in a poem from 1857 by J.J. Goeverneur does the little Jan get his whole name 'J.A.N.' in Pastry Characters. Also there is for him a 'cigaar of chocolate'. Clearly a child of richer parents thus.
The same idea as at the monastery school thus, but also there is not yet talk of chocolate letters.
In Belgium they also celebrate the Sinterklaas Feast, but they don't use chocolate characters there. Chocolate characters are also made in Germany and Austria according to Gerard Unger. "This sprayed letters are there sold around new year's Eve, Silvesterabend."
||Then some info on the Chocolate Characters themselves (source: http://www.chocoladeletter.net/)
The industrial manufacturing of chocolate letters began around the end of the 19th century.
In the book 'Woordenschat' which appeared in 1899 with by Taco H. de Beer and Dr. E. Laurillard collected explanations of words and phrases, is under the lemma chocolate-characters noted: 'great, long, black letters, used to write the name of an artist or vendor on poster, affices etc.'.
Apparently was the chocolate letter around the turn of the century such a familiar appearance that it had become a typographic concept. Verkade made during World War II for lack of chocolate, Characters of taai-taai. In the past, Ccocolate characters were poured in metal forms. One of the main suppliers of the iron moulds was the 'Vormen' (Moulds) factory in Tilburg.
Today the forms are of plastic. Bakers do often still make beautifully decorated characters, the decoration is then mostly manual work.
Within one weight class are all characters have an equal weight, but some recipients won't believe that. The M is the most sold chocolate character, because it is the M from Mother and Mam. Supposedly, there is also greed in the game because although all the characters are really equal weight, still the M seems larger, more massive.
Peppernuts 2, the herb/spice nut:
||What now passes for a peppernut is actually a herb nut, on the basis of speculas, an eighteenth century product. The beautiful form is the result of mechanical processing. The largest peppernuts factory in the world is in Harderwijk.
||One of the best known legends about Saint Nicholas tells that he at night secretly threw wallets with gold pieces inside a house. This is to prevent a father sending his daughters into prostitution to get money for a good dowry. It is therefore that you're also getting chocolate coins in gold or silver foil between the throwing goodies.
|In the shop windows you see lately more Sinterklaas decorations displayed. Even though by that time there are also already Christmas garlands, baubles and starlets sold.
Some people are afraid that Sinterklaas will be moved aside by Claus by Santa Claus. They have established special Sinterklaas associations. Also there is the National Arrival on TV. Partly because of this, the old Sinterklaas tradition will not disappear so quickly anymore.
The Dutch love Sinterklaas. For centuries now. In the Netherlands is Sinterklaas still alive and will continue being alive for the time being also. Old and young they all know songs like "Sinterklaas Kapoentje", "There is a knock at the door" and "See yonder comes the steamer". Everyone sings them along.
One should also not put Sinterklaas and Santa Claus face each other as they were competitors,
Small children cannot understand why one would exist and that the other can not exist. And small children can not at all understand why two of those kind and generous people would quarrel with each other.
When you try to break down the belief in the one, you will notice that you simultaneously also break down the believe in the other.
A real Saint will always treat Santa Claus as a younger cousin and colleague and every now and then also work together with him. For example, delivering a present from Santa Claus what not can wait until Christmas. For example in the case of relocation or terminal illness.
While a real Santa Claus will call the Saint his old uncle and inspirator and so also occasionally will work with him. For example, by still bringing a gift that Sinterklaas could not deliver on time.
Children understand this without problems, they see that as normal behavior for both friendly people. According to some children the Saint and Santa (and mrs Claus) do even go occasionally together on holiday. Now if they think that, thant is that so according to us.
The existence of the one strengthened the possibility of the existence of the other and also vice versa. So if the existence of the Saint confirmes the existence of Santa Claus, then the existence of Santa in return confirmes and strengthened the existence of the Saint. Only profit thus, a win-win situation.
This profoit works as long as we don't show them as competitors! Of course one could say Sinterklaas comes first (takes precedence, is more important) and act that way, If one want to protect the Sinterklaas feast and customs, to a child this can be explained with: In fact he does comes earlier (dec 6, compared with 25 dec.)
All in all, quite a bit of heavy info on this page.
Much more something for older youth and adults, but actually a Bookings Site is that anyhow.
A site that does very cute and playful tell about the origins of Saint Nicholas, Pete and the customs is:
Really something for younger children.
On our site we have also children's pages with 'Sinterklaas Songs and Drawings' and the 'Theory exam for Help-Petes'
and, of course, a few in the Santa part of this Site.
Karl Meisen: "Nikolauskult und Nikolausbrauch im Abendlande 1931" ,
Frits Booy: 'Sint Nicolaas van A tot Z' ,
The friends of Saint Nicholas: http://www.vriendenvansintnicolaas.nl/ ,
and last but not least the 'Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus Archive - Sinterklaas en Kerstman archief' from J.W. Koning
which brought us so many special facts
and did lead us so very often back to the right direction were other sources did go astray.
If you borrow or copy knowhow/info from other sources, for example for a non commercial project, lecture or a scription,
then it show good manors to refer to those sources.
And we also expect you, when using info from our site, to refer to our sources.
(This for so far as they have to do with borrowed/copied part of our site.)
For commercial projects you must have a written permission from us and above that a written permission from our sources as far as the have a right on the info on our site.
The website Sint-en-Santa.eu is an initiative from private persons. The object with this site is to offer non commercial information about several aspects about the Histories of St Nicholas and Santa Claus and the believes and festivals around them and the customs belonging to those festivals.
So parents and childeren will find it easier to keep the stories alive.
Disclaimer about the info:
This website is only ment to give parents and childeren correct informations about Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. The informations on this site are put together most carefully.
But it is possible still that some of our information is; -not complete, not according to present (or newer) info, or could be explained in diverent ways, or even seems to hold uncorrect facts.
We take no responcebility for the Juristic correctness of the info we have presented here, nor fot the effects of the here presented info and products, and also not for eventual demage (direct or indirect) which did happendgeleden as a result from using our informations. Using our informations is complete for the risk of the user.
Disclaimer about the links:
On this site are several links to other Saint and Santa related websites. There are soly there to inform our users. We have no influence and co contol on these sites and their contents and therefore we taken no responcability for eventual damage, direct or indirect, which happend by using the info's, products or services on these sites.
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