We all know that the tradition of Sinterklaas can sometimes be confusing for expats who are unfamiliar with it. The responsible thing to do would be to truth-ally explain the many interesting details and facts about the much loved Dutch tradition and leave it at that… But sometimes it’s just fun to mess with them and make stuff up.
Welcome to; Lies About The Dutch – The Sinterklaas Edition!
- Sinterklaas and Santa were once business partners but after several disagreements about whether they should locate their place of business in a cold climate or a warm climate they went their separate ways.
- No one realizes that Sinterklaas’ horse Amerigo is the real brains behind the operation. He controls everything.
- Sinterklaas and Santa are actually the same person but due to EU regulations he has to assume different identities for different countries. That’s why you’ve never seen them in the same room together… Think about it.
- The Zwarte Piet once lost Sinterklaas’ naughty book and in a panic replaced it with a phone book. This went unnoticed for three years until the real book was recovered.
- Sinterklaas used to place the children’s presents in their shoes himself. However, after passing out several times due to particularly bad smelling shoes he decided it was best to let the Pieten do it instead.
- There are in fact only four Zwarte Pieten. It is an optical illusion that makes it look like there are more.
- During the summer months the steam boat is used to give tours around the coast of Spain to tourists.
- Sinterklaas used to traditionally dress in white until one day when he accidentally mixed one of his red socks in with his laundry.
- Sinterklaas and Santa once spent five hours stuck down the same chimney while a team of elves and Zwarte Pieten tried to get them out. It was very awkward.
All these lies have probably put me in Sinterklaas’ naughty book.
So if you are looking for the truth about the Sint check out:
or find the full list of posts at
Crew Members Log:
Conditions on board the tour boat are harsh. We have been patrolling the canals of Amsterdam for 20 minutes now and supplies are running low. There are only two French audio guide books and none for the Japanese. Some of us are starting to wonder if we will ever see dry land again.
We just past the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, the oldest canal in Amsterdam and once home to 16 different convents and monasteries.
I’ve heard some of the men telling stories to pass the time, unnatural, dreadful stories that would chill you to the bone. They talk about a ghost ship that sails through the canals of Amsterdam known as ‘The touring Dutchman’. They say it is an omen of doom and the bringer of bad tourist season weather. Hopefully it is a ship we will never meet but judging by the weather I fear it might be trailing our wake.
We just passed the oldest Church in Amsterdam, originally built in 1306.
When we stepped on board this tour boat each one of us swore to loyally follow our tour guide without question (until the Q&A at the end) and defend the waters of this great country, its Queen and its people in keeping with the traditions of the of the great Dutch fleets of old but as tourists I wonder how much fighting spirit we truly have amongst us.
We just passed the former headquarters of the colonial East India Company, now home to the University of Amsterdam library.
I don’t know what I would do if we were ever to engage in combat. I try not to imagine it but the scenarios start to play themselves out with in my mind. Epic and bloody battles, the madness of war, our tour guide pointing out areas of strategic interest; “If you look to your right you will see a fleet of attacking Spanish tour boats, the largest known of its kind.”
Sometimes I think the only thing that keeps me going is the promised reward of a souvenir photograph for the reasonable price of 12.99 (4.99 for reprints) in return for our loyalty and bravery.
The Old meets the new – The inspiration for this post
Hans Mystiek was a very famous Dutch magician during the 1900s who amazed audiences all over the country with his pulling animals out of objects tricks for 24 years. Rabbits out of hats, doves out of pockets, cats out of bags, he did it all. He had even performed at the birthday of the Dutch queen on several occasions. She was particularly delighted by his Guinea Pig from a shoe tricks.
What made him the best loved magician in the whole of Holland was not only his skill in the art of conjuring tricks, his dashing good looks and his performance flair but also his desire to always be better than himself and over shadow his last amazing trick with an even more amazing new one.
So when the 25th year anniversary of his career as a magician was approaching Hans knew he had to put on the best show he had ever performed. Something extra special that no one had ever seen before in the whole history of stage magic. But how to improve upon his duck from a picnic basket trick? He struggled with it night and day, desperately trying to come up with a solution. Until one night…
“Eureka!” He shouted in a sudden flash of inspiration. “Ik weet wat ik doe!”
Hans locked himself away in his workshop for the next few weeks that followed. He refused any callers and ignored any messages. No one saw or heard from him as he worked feverishly on his new trick. However, some recall seeing large deliveries of bananas being made to his workshop under the cover of night.
Finally the night of the performance came. The rumors of Hans Mystiek’s new trick had got out and everyone was waiting in anticipation. Even the Dutch queen was in attendance.
The show started with a few of the usual tricks; a dog out of a kennel, a mouse out of a glove. The audience was captivated as always, unknowing of the disastrous surprise that was to come.
No one knows why it happened. Some speculate that the creature in question (which had remained well hidden and well behaved during the first act) had simply become agitated by its confined quarters during the second act or that it had been spooked by a particularly loud audience member cheering a successful budgie out of a hankie trick. All anyone at the show can recall is that with-out warning, while Hans was taking a bow there was an almighty screech and a monkey suddenly sprang from his sleeve and launched itself to the front row.
Some people screamed, others fainted but most tried to flee the auditorium in panic as the monkey ran about, coursing chaos everywhere. It jumped from seat to seat amongst the terrified audience, climbed the stage curtain, swung from a light, ran into the foyer and finally escaped through a skylight above the snack bar.
After the 10 minutes of monkey chaos Hans was left standing alone on stage in the wreaked theatre with a shocked look on his face, wounding where his trick had gone wrong. He never worked with monkeys again.
That is where the Dutch proverb “de aap komt uit de mouw” (the monkey comes out of the sleeve) originates from. It is a warning to stage magicians who are thinking about attempting any magic tricks that involve monkeys and serves to remind them that it is important to take every precaution necessary to avoid the tiny simian escaping too early during the second act and making off with the pearl necklace of the lady in the front row.
For other Dutch magician proverbs also see:
- The rabbit is out of the hat
- The card is out of the deck
- The assistant is sawn in half
(Actual meaning: An expression used when a surprise has become known, usually unintentionally. The same as the English proverb, “The cat is out of the bag.”)
The ghost of Christmas past could not have foreseen the consequences of their actions because her realm is the past and as such she has no forward planning ability. If you were to ask her what she planned to do during her next weekend she would not be able to tell you. She would not even be able to understand the concept. She would, however, be able to give you a very accurate detailed description of what she had done last weekend.
The ghost of Christmas present was not to blame either as he is even more impaired then his backward looking co-worker. His mind is only filled with the here and now. He would not be able to give you a description of his future weekend plans or even what he did during his last weekend. However, he is very good at describing what he is doing as he does it. This is also the reason why he does not get invited to any more parties. His running commentary on what is happening as it happens makes for very boring conversation.
Only the ghost of Christmas future could be held responsible for what transpired as he is the only one with the ability to see all possible futures. However, he is a jerk and he thought it would be funny. He has been reprimanded several times for similar disregards of the official guidelines in the past. It was soon realized that any punishment issued to him for these actions was ultimately useless since he is unable to remember the past and can only think of the future.
Most people are the results of their past actions and choices. The ghost of Christmas future however is the result of his future actions and choices. Sadly no one realized soon enough that one of his future actions was to destroy the world but that is another story.
The three of them had been put together with the hope that collectively they would be able to do the job of one ghost. This turned out to be a disaster but a legal loop hole in the equal opportunities guidelines made it impossible to fire them.
None of this mattered however, not after they had so royally messed up history by interfering in the life of one Ebenezer Scrooge.
In the original pages of history as documented by man Ebenezer Scrooge was described as a penny pinching miser until the day he died alone and unloved. Although his impact on the lives of those around him was felt heavily his influence on the bigger picture of history was unnoticeable. With in a few decades of his death any ripples in history he might have created faded away into obscurity. In the original history he died and left no family, no friends, no one to remember him apart from the ones he made suffer. No one suffered more then Bob Cratchit who was unable to afford treatment for his son Tiny Tim on the poor wage that the uncaring Scrooge paid him. A few years after Ebenezer Scrooge’s death Tiny Tim also died.
These were the sad events that history was supposed to record but then the ghosts of Christmas interfered one night in 1843 and changed everything forever.
Ebenezer Scrooge became a good man, a caring man, a kind man. He was able to find love again and became a dedicated husband and father. He made Bob Cratchit a full partner in his business and insured that Tiny Tim received the best treatment and did not die. Everything was good. Everyone was happy.
But then everything started to go wrong and the changes to history became more and more apparent with Ebenezer Scrooge’s descendants. It was up to the ghosts of Christmas to correct their mistake.
- On December 18th 1856 the serial killer known only as Tiny Tim claims his twelfth victim. He is never caught by the police and he becomes more infamous then Jack the Ripper. The only clue he ever leaves is a badly scribbled note next to each body which reads, “Gowd blass us every1.”
- On December 29th 1896 David Scrooge accidentally succeeds where Guy Fawkes failed by blowing up the Houses of Parliament when he is startled by a mouse and drops his lamp in the Prime Minister secret rum stash hidden in the basement. This also courses the second great fire of London.
- On December 6th 1943 Timmy Scrooge falls asleep at his post after a night of drinking bootleg booze made from anti-freeze, cough syrup and his wife’s hair dye. As a result a small group of German spies are able to sneak into the country and hide in the British country side for several months where they pose as Yorkshire farmers near an army base. They send British army intelligence secrets back to their father land and World War II lasts three years longer.
- On December 12th 1952 Scrooge Records buys Sun Records. After a four hour argument in a broken elevator about which dinner sells the best burgers James Scrooge fires Sam Phillips, the man who originally discovered Elvis. As a result The King is never given a record deal and spends the rest of his life working (ironically) as a burger chef in a dinner.
- On December 2nd 1997 it is discovered that Eric Scrooge, Prime Minister of Great Britain, is completely barking mad. Sadly, the damage is already done by the time the public realize this. His last act as Prime Minister is to declare himself Candy King and rename London as Gum Drop Fun Town.
- On December 30th 2009 Sam Scrooge accidentally starts World War III at a peace talk when he mistakenly translates the phrase, “I agree to the peace terms,” as, “Shove it where the sun don’t shine you commie [expletive deleted].”
The ghosts of Christmas had a lot of work cut out for them.
(Copyright© Invading Holland 2007)
A few days ago I discovered a spider in my back garden that had spun a web over my bicycle. I don’t know if it was attempting to cocoon the whole thing but it inspired me to write a children’s story about a young ambitious spider.
Over the next two weeks I am going to be taking a short break from blogging while I am on holiday in the UK. I’ll be back again at the start of September so for now I leave you with the story of Jimmy the spider.
Once upon a time in the far away land of Holland where drugs and prostitution are ‘sort of’ legal there lived a young spider called Jimmy. Jimmy lived with lots of other young spiders in a small garden, behind a small house in a small town.
Just like all the other young spiders Jimmy had eight little spider legs and lots of little spider eyes (too many to count but at a guess, about nine, the kind that follow you around the room where ever you go).
However, unlike the other young spiders Jimmy was a little clumsy and he had great difficulty making spider webs. Jimmy tried his hardest but all of the webs he made looked strange and did not follow the regulation EU web spinning guide lines.
This caused the other spiders to be very mean to Jimmy and make cruel jokes about him. This made Jimmy very sad (but not in an emo way).
“Jimmy, your web has no style,” they would say.
“Jimmy, your webs are not as beautiful as ours,” they would laugh.
“Jimmy, that web is in violation of at least thirteen safety codes, none of the load bearing strands are in the right place and it is aesthetically displeasing,” they would mock.
Jimmy’s webs did not catch many insects either which made the other young spiders laugh at him even more. The insects simply breathed a sigh of relief on the other hand.
Jimmy decided that he would study as hard as he could to become a better web builder. He studied all through the day. He studied all through the night. He studied for many, many weeks while the other young spiders played.
Then, one winter’s day Jimmy was finally ready to try building a spider web again. The other spiders gathered to watch as Jimmy started to make a new web using all the knowledge he had learned. They watched as Jimmy swung gracefully from branch to branch laying his web.
When he had finished he stopped to catch his breath and marvel at his work. However, he suddenly realized he had cocooned himself in the centre of his own web by accident.
The other young spiders roared with laughter. Even the insects laughed but they still kept their distance to be on the safe side.
Several hours later when Jimmy finally pulled himself free he decided to move to the other side of the garden where he could not hear the mocking laughter of the other young spiders. Jimmy found an old rusty bicycle that looked as lonely and unwanted as he felt. Jimmy climbed up to its highest point where he spun one of his clumsy webs between the handle bars and went to sleep.
Jimmy stayed there for the rest of the winter, all by himself on the old rusty bicycle in the old garden, behind the old house, in the old town. None of the other spiders bothered Jimmy.
One morning at the start of summer Jimmy was woken up by a loud sound. When he opened all of his little spider eyes he saw a small human boy with red hair coming out of the small house into the small garden.
The small boy walked over to the bicycle and started to look closely at the broken parts on it. When the small boy saw Jimmy he paused and looked very closely at Jimmy and Jimmy’s oddly shaped web.
Jimmy was very scared. Jimmy had heard stories about naughty little boys with psychological problems who like to destroy webs and pull the legs off spiders.
“That’s a very nice web you have Mr Spider,” the little boy suddenly said without pulling off any of Jimmy’s legs. “I like it very much. It is not as boring as all the other webs which are all the same. In fact, I like it so much that I think you should stay.”
Jimmy watched from his oddly shaped web as the little boy with red hair repaired the old bicycle. The little boy cleaned every part of the bicycle so it shined like new but he left Jimmy and his oddly shaped web where it was.
“That looks better doesn’t it Mr Spider,” said the small boy when he was finished. “Now we can go out for a ride. Would you like that Mr Spider?”
Jimmy who did not understand what the small boy with red hair was talking about simply shrugged. Even though Jimmy did this with all eight of his little spider legs the small boy did not notice the tiny gesture and they went out for a bicycle ride.
Every day the little boy rode his bicycle through the fields and meadows of Holland with Jimmy sitting on his oddly shaped web on the handle bars of the bicycle. Jimmy’s web was a very good shape for being attached to a very fast moving vehicle. Jimmy was able to catch lot and lots of insects and bugs during their adventures in the mid day sun. Jimmy and the little boy with red hair became best friends. Jimmy was very happy.
A few months later the parents of the little boy with red hair became very concerned at his claims that his best friend was a spider. Eventually they sent him to a child psychologist.
For many years the insects told the stories of El Arachniablo and the devil bicycle upon which he rode with his servant who has hair redder then the fires of hell.
Jimmy went on to teach his aerodynamic web building skills to other spiders. Jimmy was very famous and happy.
This story is Copyright© of ‘Invading Holland’