Sinterklaas more popular than ever
4 December 2003
AMSTERTDAM — The forthcoming feast of Saint Nicolas does not appear to be suffering from the recent recession — and in fact Sinterklaas appears to be more popular than ever.
On the eve of 5 December, when the Dutch traditionally exchange gifts, research bureau TNO — which has conducted a Sinterklaas study every year since 1995 — said three out five Dutch residents will celebrate the occasion. It said the amount of people celebrating this year was a new record.
The research bureau also said on Thursday that especially families with children under 12 years of age will exchange gifts. Figures indicate that four out of five families will celebrate the 5 December tradition, a nu.nl news report said.
But the money spent this year is less than previous years, with households spending EUR 120 this year, compared with EUR 135 in 2002. More than half of those who celebrate 5 December will also give short comical poems about their loved one when giving them their present.
Meanwhile, the chocolate letter remains the most popular sweet at this time of year, followed by the (almond) pastry roll and the pepernoten (ginger or spiced biscuits). About half of survey respondents said they had difficulty in finding the right chocolate letter, with M, J and R the most obscure.
Sinterklaas also remains much more popular than the Kerstman (Santa Claus), who arrives on 25 December. While more than 50 percent of Dutch residents celebrate Christmas with presents, Santa is always second best in comparison with Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas and his legion of Zwarte Piet helpers arrived by boat at Zwolle harbour on 15 November to herald the start of the Dutch Saint Nicholas festive season. Besides the official arrival of Sinterklaas various other cities and towns also staged arrival celebrations.
Traditionally, in mid-November, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands by boat from his home in Spain. This event is broadcast live and each year Sinterklaas arrives in a different city.
The Zwarte Piet or Black Pete character is the subject of heated discussion in the Netherlands due to his or her skin colour and alleged likeness to a Dutch colonial slave. But the existence of Black Pete is defended by claims their skin is black from chimney soot and they are fun characters for children.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news