Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sinterklaas Day

Our office celebrated Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) day on December 6th.. we even got Neuhaus choclate figurines (best in Belgium) on each of our desks, a cart full of candy, and a boquet of even more candy.

Sinterklaas as almost as important as Christmas day. The story is that Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) and his assistant Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) go around visiting the children, the bad children are taken away, and the good children receive gifts. So, kids in Belgium typically get their gifts on 6 Dec. In the past, that was the only day they got gifts, as Christmas was more for family activities, and gifts from the younger people to their parents. But now, with the differences in celebrating Christmas, most kids get gifts on both Sinterklaas and on Christmas.

The Sinterklaas tradition will seem strange to Americans.. it's about St. Nicholas, who apparently was a Spainard, and his assistant Zwarte Piet, who was an African dressed in 16th century costume. This scene is often re-enacted for the kids near the Christmas markets.. but here's the wierd part. Zwarte Piet, an African, is typically played by a caucasian guy with black makeup and an afro wig. I was really shocked to see this, because it would be so politically incorrect in the US. Apparently it's the custom with some historical background, as Zwarte Piet is supposed to be a freed slave who was a follower of St. Nicholas. More info on Black Pete and St. Nicholas

Either way, it was really festive at the office with the choclates (and too much sugar for one person!)

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