Last Saturday Sinterklaas arrived in the Netherlands again, with his steamship, from Spain. He will stay here with his Zwarte Pieten until December 5, when he will distribute presents to all good children. Earlier this year, the Dutch voted the Sinterklaas celebration their most important and valuable tradition.
A couple of decades ago, when I was still a young boy myself, the December month was pure magic. First, around the 15th of November, Sinterklaas (or Sint Nicolaas) and his Pieten would arrive. Between that arrival and the 5th of December, there would be several evenings where my sister and I would sit at the fireplace and sing our Sinterklaas-songs before bedtime, leaving our shoes for the Sint to put a small present in. Then, the 5th... possibly the most exciting day of the year. Would Sinterklaas come? Had I been good enough? Would he bring presents? And perhaps most importantly: would those be the presents I wished for?
Then after the 5th, the Sinterklaas-excitement and -decorations would fade away, and the country would slowly turn into a Christmasland. Christmas was magical in its very own way: this was not so much about presents, but about having the family together, naively dream about peace on earth and listen to the story of the Christ child (believing it or not was not that imortant, was it?).
Santa Claus is a fantasy figure, originally for a big part derived from Sinterklaas. He's surely a fun part of Christmas mythology in other countries, but not here. Somehow though, over the years, Santa introduced himself in the Netherlands more and more, turning Christmas into Sinterklaas with a Christmas tree. There's no child in the Netherlands who actually believes in Santa like they do in Sinterklaas; he's just another excuse for getting more presents. No magic, just the money. It also ruins things the other way around: because Christmas is such a commercially important thing internationally, Christmas decorations are now everywhere way before December the 5th. The two celebrations have lost their individual unique meaning completely.
I know it's lame to try to link everything to music. I do. But is this a music blog or what?
The expectation. The anticipation. The magic. The stories. The completely losing yourself in a different world. The believing in a better world for a little while. The somehow exciting fear to be disappointed. The relieve. The feeling like a child. The will to deserve and participate.
That's why I loved December. And that's why I'll always love pop music.
1. The Aislers Set - My boyfriend (could be a Spanish man)
2. The Legends - Call it ours