Sinterklaas has arrived in Holland again to give out gifts to all the little girls and boys who have been good this year. When talking about Sinterklaas it is very important to understand that he should not be mistaken with Santa Claus (or visa versa). As every Dutch person will inform you they might both be old men with white beards who dress in red and like to give out presents to good children in December but they are nothing alike… not in the slightest.
For example; Sinterklaas lives in the much warmer climate of Spain, arrives in Holland by steam boat during November, has helpers called Zwarte Pieten (Al Jolson look-a-likes), rides a white horse called Amerigo, and on December 5th he leaves presents in the shoes of good children but drags bad children back to Spain in a sack (you can find my more in depth guide here: Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet).
Over the years I have become very familiar with the Sinterklaas tradition. However, there are still a few things I do not quite understand about it. For example:
1) If Sinterklaas spends 11 months of the year in Spain why doesn’t he have more of a tan?
2) Did Sinterklaas set up his toy purchasing and exporting business in Spain because the Peseta to Guilder exchange rate allowed him to save money? If so; how has the switch to the Euro affected him financially (especially in this financial crisis)?
3) Where does he get the money to sustain a workforce of Zwarte Pieten and buy so many toys which he gives away for free? Is Sinterklaas an eccentric billionaire? How long will the money last?
4) If he is bringing pleasure to all the girls and boys by giving them gifts from Spain is his trip considered business or pleasure and does this mean he can or can’t reclaim any expenses incurred during his travels when doing his taxes?
5) Has Sinterklaas ever considered setting up a cultural exchange program with Santa Claus so that he could spend a year working with elves while all the Zwarte Pieten went to the North Pole? Would elves be able to cope with the hot Spanish sun with their extremely pale skin?
6) Who would win in a race; Sinterklaas with his horse Amerigo or Santa Claus with his twelve reindeer?
7) Why is it that the possible undertones of racism in regard to the Zwarte Pieten become a hot topic every year but no one ever complains about the obvious racism towards elves during Christmas? After all, we never see how Father Christmas treats them.
8) What happens to all the naughty children who are taken back to Spain? Are there just random Dutch children walking around the streets of Spain? Is this why Sinterklaas is not as stricked as he used to be in previous years? Did the Spanish government complain and tell him to knock it off?
9) Can Sinterklaas speak Spanish or does he have to get by with hand gestures and talking very loudly? Do the people of Spain find him odd?
These are the questions that keep me awake at night.