Tuesday, December 02, 2008

this week in Aruba: Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas (also called Sint-Nicolaas in Dutch [pronunciation (help·info)]) and Saint Nicolas in French) is a traditional holiday figure in the Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles and Belgium, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve (December 5) or, in Belgium, on the morning of December 6. The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children.
It is also celebrated to a lesser extent in parts of France (North, Alsace, Lorraine), as well as in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and in the town of Trieste and in Eastern Friuli in Italy. Additionally, many Roman Catholics of Alsatian and Lotharingian descent in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. celebrate "St. Nicholas Day" the morning of December 6th. The traditions differ from country to country, even between Belgium and the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas' Eve, (December 5th) is the chief occasion for gift-giving. The evening is called sinterklaasavond or "pakjesavond" ("presents' evening"). Traditionally, presents are ingeniously wrapped, and are therefore called surprises. Also, presents are traditionally accompanied by a poem from Saint Nicholas.
Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often alleged that, during the American War of Independence, the inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town (New Amsterdam) which had been swapped by the Dutch for other territories, reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas to be a symbol of the city's non-English past.[1] The name Santa Claus is derived from older Dutch Sinte Klaas. However the Saint Nicholas Society was not founded until 1835, almost half a century after the end of the American War of Independence.[2] Moreover, a study of the "children's books, periodicals and journals" of New Amsterdam by Charles Jones revealed no references to Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas ("Knickerbocker Santa Claus," New York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954).

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