Sinterklaas, the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus

So, here's a piece of Dutch folklore for you that's really messed up history! (^0^)

Originally, St. Nicholas was a bishop in the Greek town of Myra, which is located in modern day Turkey. How is that you ask? When St. Nichoals was a bishop, from approximately 280 - 340 A.D., Turkey was a part of the eastern Roman Empire, the part of the Roman Empire that spoke Greek.

Anyway... St. Nicholas was the patron saint of children, and - surprise, surprise - the 'Sinterklaas' holiday in the Netherlands is dedicated to children until they are about 10 years old. In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas is celebrated traditionally on the evening of December 5th, with lots of present for the children. When the children are older and they stopped believing in Sinterklaas, the family tradition is usually kept and people start making each other 'surprises', an unknown gift in a creative wrapper.

Sinterklaas has 'Zwarte Piet', or Black Pete, to help him carry the presents he brings on his big, black steamboat from Spain, to take care of his horse, the boat, his clothing, etc. The history of Zwarte Piet is actually quite elaborate, and thus I'll refer you to >>> <<< this English article.

Now, as I've just mentioned, in the Netherlands Sinterklaas lives in Spain. Why? Actually, I don't think any Dutch person could give you a good answer. In fact, it's quite strange, because the Netherlands fought Spain for over 80 years, during the reign of Philip II of Spain. They were each other's nemesis. Anyhow, for us, St. Nicholas is a Spaniard! ¡Olé!

I hope other Dutch members of this group will elaborate on this topic, as Sinterklaas is a huge part of Dutch folklore and this post would be enormous if I were to tel it all myself.

Hopefully I can post translations of this in German, French and Spanish soon! So those of you out there who don't speak English so well, don't worry (^0^)°

P.s.: Anyone care to attempt translating this to Japanese/Chinese/Korean?
May 31, 2008