This cartoon first appeared in the November/December edition of DUTCH:The Magazine
November and December can be a very confusing time of year for expats in Holland, especially for those who have never heard the name Sinterklaas or seen a Zwarte Piet before.
If you were to ask a Dutch Person who Sinterklaas is the basic description you’d receive would be something along the lines of, “He is a very nice old man who has a long white beard, dresses in red and gives presents in December to all the good girls and boys.”
Whatever you do, do not follow this up by asking them how that makes him any different from Santa, not unless you want to seriously damage diplomatic relations between Holland and your own country. Santa and Sinterklaas are two very different people. They just happen to work in the same area of business. There are several very key differences for identifying them:
1) Santa Claus comes from the North Pole but Sinterklaas comes from Spain and saves money on his yearly heating bill.
2) Santa Claus dresses in red with a fluffy white trim but Sinterklaas goes with the slightly more fashionable gold trim and accessorizes with a staff.
3) Santa Claus delivers presents on the night of December 24th but Sinterklaas arrives in Holland in the middle of November, does some sightseeing, delivers presents on the 5th of December and returns home in time to enjoy a quiet Christmas.
4) Santa Claus flies to his destination but Sinterklaas arrives by steam boat. It is still unknown if this difference is because Sinterklaas is afraid of flying or Santa is afraid of water.
5) Santa Claus rides on a sledge pulled by 12 over worked reindeer but Sinterklaas rides a single white horse called Amerigo, saves money on animal feed and has to remember less names.
6) Santa Claus puts presents for children under a Christmas tree but Sinterklaas puts presents in children’s shoes regardless of how smelly they are.
7) Santa Claus has an elf equal opportunities program which has helped keep the fairytale creature unemployment rate down. Sinterklaas also has an equal opportunities program and employs Zwarte Pieten who suffer from A.D.D and regularly get their shoe polish mixed up with their face cream.
8) Santa Claus gives a lump of coal to children who have been naughty so that they might learn from their mistakes. Sinterklaas on the other hand has a zero tolerance policy and orders Zwarte Piet to throw naughty children into a sack and drag them back to Spain while beating them with twigs.
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!
For expats living in The Netherlands who have never heard of the name Sinterklaas or seen a Zwarte Piet before November and December can become a very confusing time of year. This much loved Dutch tradition naturally leaves them with a lot of questions. What is Pakjesavond and why are children leaving their shoes out? Who is Sinterklaas and why does he own a steam boat? Who are the Zwarte Piet and why do they seem to have gotten their shoe polish mixed up with their face cream? It can be a very confusing time of year indeed.
But fear not. All these answers and more can be found right here in this collection of useful and comical Invading Holland guides that will help you figure out what the heck is going on (just click the titles):
It’s never a good idea to compare Sinterklaas to Santa Clause, not unless you want to seriously damage diplomatic relations between The Netherlands and your own country. This humorous guide helps highlight the key differences between the two so that you never again accidentally mix them up and risk deportation.
It’s always best to tell the truth if you want to stay out of Sinterklaas’ naughty book. But sometimes it’s just fun to mess with confused expats.
When I discovered Sinterklaas’ address I knew I had to send him a letter. I had so many unanswered questions about the Dutch tradition. Maybe he could help. Could he? Maybe not. He’s probably very busy… Little did I know that a few days later I would get a reply directly from the man himself.
If you are on Santa’s naughty list are you automatically on Sinterklaas’ naughty list? If Sinterklaas spends 11 months of the year in Spain why doesn’t he have more of a tan? Is Sinterklaas an eccentric billionaire? There are some questions that it’s simply best not to ask the Dutch when Sinterklaas comes to town. These two post asks them anyway.
Every year Sinterklaas’ boat journey from Spain to Holland is diligently followed on the news. Every present over board and every rough wave is reported with the up most journalistic credibility for the children of Holland and every year the question is the same. Will Sinterklaas arrive in time? Normally he does but what if the problems he encountered were much more… challenging?
A personal story about the time I almost met Sinterklaas himself, the lengths I went to to make it happen and an interesting conundrum about what exactly is considered stalking.