St. Nicholas

I am still having difficulty getting inspired to write regularly on this blog. Ironically, I wrote six posts for my Dutch blog this week. Writing those posts gave me one idea to write about here – books I’ve read in 2014 -, but I’m too lazy to write that post.

I went on the SITS Girls website and looked at the prompts for December. Yesterday’s prompt asked if we celebrate with Santa Clause. Since St. Nicholas or Santa Clause is a particularly Dutch (and somewhat Belgian) tradition, at least in its most well-known form, I thought I’d write about that. A day late – or two, since the St. Nick’s celebration is on December 5 here -, but who cares?

St. Nicholas in some ways is like Christmas in the U.S., in that we swap gifts, there’s an old man with a white beard and a red coat involved and we eat lots of candy. There are specific St. Nicholas candies. For example, people often get a chocolate letter.

We used to celebrate St. Nicholas with my family rather than Christmas. At school, we also celebrated St. Nicholas in additon to Christmas. A tradition in many homes and classrooms is to package your gifts in a surprise package and to draw names to determine who has to gift to whom. Of course, you always thank “Santa Clause” and in some cases, who really gifted you will remain unknown to you forever. Like, I never found out who’d gifted me some chocolates packaged in a box that was made to look like a laptop in seventh grade.

At our home, we usually gave each of our family members a present, at least from the moment we were old enough to have some money for it and not believe that Santa Clause existed anymore. I hated the name-drawaing, surprise-gifting process and to my knowledge I managed to persuade (or tantrum) my parents into never adopting that tradition.

Another tradition which I couldn’t keep my parents from adopting was the Santa Clause poem. The most boring kind goes along the lines of “Santa thought long and hard what to gift dear Edward”. The best ones have some kind of moral advice in them and if they’re really good, they’re humorous too. It was usually easy to tell who had gifted me something by the quality of and tone in the poems. My mother was the one with the hugely moralizing poems, my father incorporated humor and some advice, and my sister would make up words in order to make the words rhyme. I hardly ever wrote poems and hated having to read the ones I got aloud. In fact, I hated the whole pretend play involved in Santa Clause once I was old enough to no longer believe he existed. I never went along with it.

Nonetheless, I liked celebrating Santa Clause, though possibly more for the gifts and a bit because we’d always done it this way than for any other reason. It did sadden me that we stopped celebrating St. Nicholas once I got into the psychiatric hospital. Now we visit my parents every other year for Christmas instead.

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