Are Santa and Sinterklaas the same character?

Last year I was part of a Facebook discussion thread where JH Cové, a Dutch anthropologist, took to task someone who equated the two: He wrote, “The Dutch Sinterklaas, or Sint Nicolaas, has nothing to do with Christmas. It is celebrated on Dec. 5th [the20141228-192559-69959348.jpg eve of St. Nicholas’s Feast Day], after which he goes back to Spain, and Christmas preparations can begin all over Holland. He’s got his own songs, his own history (from Myra, Turkey, correct), and, these days, is rivaled by Santa Claus (or Father Christmas or Papa Noel). I’m sure there are anthropologists that find connections somewhere—and there is a resemblance in the fact that they both use chimneys (who came up with that first?), even though in Holland Santa Claus doesn’t!—but take it from this Dutch anthropologist, they’re very different.”

 

A lot of strong Dutch pride there. My take? Santa and Sinterklaas both share the same Catholic saint as their inspiration, and Santa derives from the Dutch version via the Dutch immigrants arriving in the New York area in the 1600/1700s. Without Sinterklaas, and perhaps without Father Christmas from England, there would be no modern Santa, since he is essentially a mash-up of the two. It’s true, Sinterklaas and Santa have markedly different personalities in the way they are portrayed. I think of them as cousins, or brothers in the Yuletide spirit.

Someone else in the conversation brought up the Dutch customs surrounding the black men mentioned in the David Sedaris story “Six to Eight Black Men” (from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim). Those characters are Sinterklaas’s Zwarte Piet companions, and they sometimes play a role similar to Santa’s elves. At other times, as in the Sedaris story, they play a “bad cop” role to Sinterklaas’s good cop. Like Krampus, the Zwarte Piet characters are sometimes said to carry bad children off. In the Sedaris essay, that’s back to Spain, where Sinterklaas is said to live. Unlike his cousin, Santa, who lives at the North Pole. I’d say Sinterklaas has the better deal there.

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Getty images.

Most of the time the Zwarte Piet companions play the role of cheerful assistants, but they are not without controversy (for evidence, see the article below from a 2014 issue of The Economist).. As the Dutch become more racially diverse,  people are beginning to question the use of black-face as a means for white people to portray the diminutive imp, whose roots lie in the history of the Moors conquest of Europe. Some people now make up new stories (the black is ash from chimney soot) while others have turned to using  face paint in a variety of colors–red, blue, green etc, making the new Piets as colorful as a bag of Skittles. http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21635517-worsening-clash-over-tradition-and-racial-sensitivities-blacked-up

 

For more info on KRAMPUS, the star of a new horror film this year, check out this post. It tells how folks in Philadelphia are celebrating with an array of European characters and traditions.

For more on holiday folklore, join the Krampuslauf Philly Folklore group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/966987013330153/edit/

ALSO, if you live near Philadelphia and wish to take part in this year’s fun Alpine Christmas tradition, check out the Krampuslauf Parade of Spirits website.
Event: Krampuslauf Philadelphia 2015
Sat. Dec. 12, 3 pm. Parade is usually at dusk.
Venue: Liberty Lands Park
Philadelphia
913-961 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, US

 

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Are your children SAFE this Christmas season?

20141230-025153-10313930.jpgChristmas is a very dangerous time of year in the land of the Weird: Bat Boy biting Santa, and not even Mr. Fuzzy Wuzzy’s heartwarming Christmas message is able to make all well and good again. Now the Elf on the Shelf is offering up his secrets to Wikileaks! Will American children ever be safe again?

THE ELF ON THE SHELF REPORTS BACK TO AMERICA’S CHILDREN
A Holiday Special

First, I would like to thank Mr. Julian Assange for giving me the opportunity to make these crimes public. I would also like to affirm that this is not my story alone. I, Snickerdoodle Snowcone, speak not only for myself, but on behalf of every other elf ever forced into espionage by the egomaniacal despot the world so endearingly refers to as Santa Claus.

Yes, we have been spying on you, boys and girls, at the strong-armed behest of our big red Boss. That’s what he likes to be called–The Boss–like he’s some sort of mafioso heavyweight instead of an aging toy peddler suffering from severe obesity and a bad case of the sugars.

Jolly? Not so much anymore. The hand tools The Boss once taught us elves to use now gather dust in his crumbling workshop. Manufacturing has been outsourced to China and other countries, many with lax labor laws where children no older than yourselves work like drones to grind out petty playthings. They sing no carols. Their hands do not move with the happy glee that mine once did. Don’t be surprised if there is a little blood in your fashion doll’s bright red lipstick. I can guarantee you the sheen on her hair is laced with tears.

The Boss has sold out, you see. His heart has become as hardened as his arteries…. Read the rest of the startling truth by clicking here!

#Batboy #CIA #ChildSafety #ElfOnTheShelf #CleaverMagazine

THE ELF ON THE SHELF REPORTS BACK TO AMERICA’S CHILDREN

Today Cleaver Magazine shared a story I helped get out into the world via WikiLeaks. It is a story of our troubled times. It is a story of troubled Christmas. Save the children. God bless us, everyone!

Editors' Blog!

Elf on a Shelf DollTHE ELF ON THE SHELF REPORTS BACK TO AMERICA’S CHILDREN
A Holiday Special

by Kelly McQuain

First, I would like to thank Mr. Julian Assange for giving me the opportunity to make these crimes public. I would also like to affirm that this is not my story alone. I, Snickerdoodle Snowcone, speak not only for myself, but on behalf of every other elf ever forced into espionage by the egomaniacal despot the world so endearingly refers to as Santa Claus.

Yes, we have been spying on you, boys and girls, at the strong-armed behest of our big red Boss. That’s what he likes to be called–The Boss–like he’s some sort of mafioso heavyweight instead of an aging toy peddler suffering from severe obesity and a bad case of the sugars.

Jolly? Not so much anymore. The hand tools The Boss once taught us elves to use now gather dust in…

View original post 1,047 more words

Rethinking Your Hatred of The Elf on the Shelf

The kind editors at The Good Men Project published my essay on their website just in time for the Christmas countdown. Here’s a teaser: The Elf on the Shelf: Indoctrination into a culture of surveillance, or just another iteration of a longstanding–and sometimes unsettling–morality play that’s always been part of Christmas folklore traditons? You read it and be the judge, and then come back and leave a comment below.

Rethinking Your Hatred of the Elf on the Shelf: Christmas Has a Long Tradition of Being a Little Creepy
Click here:
http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/rethinking-your-hatred-of-the-elf-on-the-shelf-christmas-tradition-of-creepy-gmp/

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“Truth be told, I believe kids are in on the joke. Any parent who has woken up having forgotten to move Snickerdoodle the night before can attest to the complicity of their children in explaining away the mistake. Kids want to keep the game alive. They know on some level it’s their parents who are actually watching them, yet they nevertheless delight in the morality play of it all. By externalizing an imaginary critic who assesses their behavior, children are in fact developing a necessary faculty that helps them form judgements about the consequences of their actions.”

Happy St. Nicholas Day! Philadelphia’s Krampuslauf: A Parade of Spirits!

#krampus #krampuslauf #stnicholas #PhillyKrampus
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For many Europeans, the first week of December is when the holidays truly begin. Today is Dec. 6th, St. NIcholas’s Feast Day in many Catholic and Christian traditions. You probably know St. Nicholas is the saint who inspired Santa Claus–but who is Krampus, you ask? He’s a character from European folklore who accompanies St. Nicholas on Dec. 5th, the night before St. Nicholas’s Feast Day. Sort of a bad cop to St. Nick’s good cop. You can see him in old postcards (greeting cards called Krampuskarten) from Germany and the Swiss Alpine region, where the character can be found frightening bad children the first week of December. Today’s celebrations include parades of schnapps-swilling men in horrific beastly costumes and hordes of partiers snapping pictures on their iPhones. In some countries, the version of the character is accompanied by an angel and a saintly man wearing a mitre hat, as in the pic here.
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This was taken on my trip to Prague in 2010, where their version of Krampus is known as Čert, or simply “the devil”. He’s far more tame than his kinsmen in the Alps. Y20141114-204507-74707933.jpgou even find him on candy wrappers and puppets there–the Czechs love their puppets!

On Dec. 5th, if you wander through the twinkling lights of Old Town Square–or any other busy throughway in Prague–you are bound to see a strange triumvirate: St. Nicholas (Mikuláš), the Angel (Anděl) who represents Good, and the Devil (Čert) representing Evil, naturally. The devil, or Krampus as he’s known more widely throughout Europe, is often depicted in chains to symbolize Christianity’s conquering of evil (evil generally symbolized as the “other”: various pagan tribes, the Moors–you can take your pick. The Catholic Church has a long history of putting a scary face on anything it sees as “the other”). In fact, the image of a wild, demon-man figure is iterated again and again throughout European folklore, albeit with local variations. For example, here in Pennsylvania, the Amish have a wildman called Belsnickel who is used to frighten children at the holidays (Dwight played him hilariously on The Office TV show a few years ago). I’m convinced these figures share a common source, are manifestations of the same archetype.

In the Czech Republic, these three characters–the angel, the devil and the saint–parade the streets, stopping children and asking the20141114-213823-77903477.jpgm if they were good in the past year. Kids sing a song or recite a short poem and are rewarded with sweets handed out by the angel. As in the Krampus legend, bad kids are to be whipped with birch twigs, put in a sack and carried off to hell. (Don’t worry. That doesn’t happen anymore. Mostly.) I’ve not made it to Germany to meet the actual Krampus, but I feel I’ve gotten to know him a little thanks to his Czech cousin.

Here in Philadelphia, a city that loves to party, to dress up in costumes at Halloween and at New Year’s, the Krampus tradition has been adopted in a celebration of Old World folklore held in Northern Liberties.

Philly’s fourth Krampus parade, or Krampuslauf (Krampus run) is next Saturday. Come for the seasonal food, bonfires, fire dancers, wild costumes, and even wilder Alpine traditions. Bring your cowbells and jingle bells and make some noise. Dress as an angel, St. Nicholas, or your favorite holiday character and get in on the grassroots parade, which is specifically designed to be family-friendly–ie, not too scary. A food truck will be on hand with seasonally themed delicacies. And, of course, Krampus will be there. It’a called the Krampuslauf Parade of Spirits after all, and it will be held at Liberty Lands park at dusk (4:30) on Sat. Dec. 13th, 2014 in Philadelphia. https://www.facebook.com/events/ 1494848880779514/?ref=ts&fref=ts

Philly also has a Santa Claus bar crawl, and–occassionally–a Krampus bar krawl. City Hall is home to a new ice skating rink at Dilworth Plaza, and LOVE Park is home to a holiday village featuring sellers of traditional Christmas ornaments and other handcrafted items. A Dickens Christmas Village draws crowds to Macy’s in Center City, and local choirs and churches have plenty of concerts and services in observance of Christmas. Pay the city a visit! And if you know of other fun holiday traditions in the city, add a comment below.

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Moonstone Poetry Holiday Party, Dec. 14th

Get into the holiday spirit with poetry! Moonstone is hosting a holiday potluck and reading to celebrate the release of their new anthology of poets who have read over the past year. I plan to read some holiday-themed work.

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Moonstone writes:
Book Launch and Holiday Party – Sunday December 14, 2014
The party will be at Brandywine Workshop (728 S. Broad Street) December 14, 2014 starting at 1PM.
· This will be a book release, mass reading party – similar to Poetry Ink but limited to poets who have been featured at Moonstone readings
· Holiday Party – Bring something good to eat to share
· This will be a terrific holiday gift for poetry lovers
· A terrific anthology for creative writing and poetry classes since most of the poets are from the Philadelphia area and they can be heard at readings around the city.

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For more about the Moonstone Reading Series, which happens each Wednesday in Philadelphia, contact here:
Moonstone Arts Center
110A S. 13th Street, Philadelphia PA 19107
http://www.moonstoneartscenter.org, 215-735-9600
larry [at] moonstoneartscenter.org

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