bunnyfish adventures


a story of sinterklaas
November 25, 2008, 1:36 am
Filed under: Dutch culture | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I first heard about Sinterklaas from Marlous and Jur when I went to Amsterdam (in the early ages of this blog!).  In a nutshell, here’s how it goes:

Sintaklaas sails into various ports in the Netherlands on a steamboat from Spain in November.  The actual holiday is celebrated December 5th, but it takes Sintaklaas time to visit all the cities, so there are various festivals for his arrival beforehand, like the one I saw on Saturday.

intocht sinterklaas
slideshow

He has helpers called “Black Pete” (Zwarte Piet) who were originally devils, thus the dark skin.  They are the ones that go around delivering presents to the good children, since Sinterklaas can’t do it alone.  (Man, that Dutch rationality.)  Shoes are laid out so that presents can be left in there as well.  And then the bad kids are taken away by the zwarte pieten to Spain to work for Sinterklaas.

The grown-ups exchange gifts that have poems written by the sender that are intended to rip you a new one in the name of good fun.

There are various treats around this time, including gingerbread-ish anise-ish mini-cookies (kruidnoten and pepernoten) and biscuits (speculaas), giant chocolate letters for the first letter of your name, and marzipan figurines.

And here are some variations from the above that I’ve heard or read:

  • The bad children are thrown in Zwarte Piet’s sack (that otherwise carries presents) and are taken back to Spain.
  • The bad children are thrown in Zwarte Piet’s sack and beaten. (Jeroen, Belgium)
  • To make Black Petes more racially palatable, the story of their skin color was changed to their being dirty from coming down the chimney.  But why wouldn’t the clothing also be dirty?  (Insert laundry detergent ad here.)
  • To make Black Petes even more racially palatable, they tried to have multi-colored Petes one year, like Fruit Loops.  It was so successful that they changed it back to all-black the following year.  (Wikipedia)

But to end on a good note, I’ll mention Sverre’s childhood experience with the Norwegian version of Santa.  Basically his parents had an agreement with the neighbors to take turns getting dressed as Santa and going to each other’s doors to deliver presents to the kids.  This way, you really wonder when Santa comes to the door and both your parents are inside of the house.  And his sleigh and reindeer are parked at the way end of the street, out of sight, because he can’t bring them everywhere.

To this day, he still doesn’t know which neighbors came to his door.  (Or were they neighbors after all?)



3-bit-zaterdag
November 23, 2008, 6:57 am
Filed under: city, Delft | Tags: , , , , ,

I’m pretty tired, but I want to post 3 things real quickly from today:

1) I found a neglected banana in the cupboard.  It was gross but also strangely intriguing.  I’m not sure how much time has passed, since it was severely out of my line of sight from the ground.  (Damn those tall cupboards for tall people…)

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2) Today was the entrance of Sinterklaas (condensed Sint Nikolaas, or Saint Nicholas) today in the center of Delft.  There was a parade and some minor festivities going on.  Here is a picture of me and a Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), one of the Dutch Santa’s helpers.  (Story of Sinterklaas is long due, but will come later.)

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3) And here is your irregular dose of Delft graffiti.  This one I’ve been meaning to take a picture of for the past while, if only it weren’t so crappy outside.  For scale reference, there is someone on his or her bike in the middle of the ‘o.’

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First taste of Amsterdam
September 7, 2008, 11:57 pm
Filed under: mini-adventures | Tags: , , , , , ,

I went today to visit Marlous and her boyfriend Jur in Amsterdam.  Since I was out rather late last night in Den Haag (a mediocrely long story), I ended up not having much time to do much…  I had some tea and tried an anise-flavored cookie that they eat during the December holiday Sinterklaas, something kind of funny and to note of later.

We took the scenic route through town to see Anne Frank’s house, where she and her family hid for two years before being ratted out.  It was quite interesting, just kind of depressing.  I saw a glimpse of Chinatown (or Chinashanty?), and found the Red Light District to be smaller than I thought it would be, and the prostitutes in the windows even less noteworthy.

Then we went back and Jur cooked us yummy salmon risotto and green beans.  I also saw some Dutch TV, which was… kind of interesting.  Jur says they call it “cucumber news” because it’s the time of year where nothing that interesting happens and news programs could comment on cucumbers.  They also had this weird gameshow where people made their own vehicles to do certain tasks, akin to those crazy Japanese gameshows.

Marlous is working on her presentation to come in a week, which I will attend.  Best of luck to her.  Classes also finally start tomorrow, with handdrawing at 8:30.  Woohoo!