Children go from door to door carrying paper lanterns and sing traditional songs about Sint Maarten to the householders in return for sweets and goodies, a custom which can be likened somewhat to the American tradition of 'trick or treat' at Halloween.
"Children expect sweets now," a Dutch colleague told me, remembering the disgust registering on young faces as he handed out tangerines after the children had enthusiastically gone through their song repertoire.
If you wish for a quiet night or your supply of goodies runs out, turn off your lights or to move to the non-street side of the house. The children will eventually stop ringing the bell.
In the eastern part of the Belgian province of West-Flanders, especially around Ypres, children receive presents from St Martin on 11 November instead of from Saint Nicholas on 6 December, or Santa Claus on December 25. St Martin, in the Flemish tradition, is also helped by a Zwarte Piet.
Who was St Martin?
Saint Martinus or Martin of Tours, was originally a Roman soldier. He was baptized in adulthood, became a monk and was known as 'a kind man who led a quiet and simple life.' Legend has it that he once tore his cloak in half to give to a poorly clothed begger during a snowstorm.
Sint Maarten liedjes (songs)
Mijn moeder is een dikzak,
Mijn vader is een dunnetje,
Geef m' een pepermunnetje!
For more Sint Maarten songs Click here
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