Christmas, the celebration of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loved his people very much and suffered a lot for them, is celebrated all over the world with great zeal. People rejoice on this occasion by singing carols, decorating their homes, serving feasts, conducting prayers and exchanging gifts. Gifts are of much importance on Christmas, especially for children. Various gift-bringing figures are associated with Christmas and they generally distribute gifts and toys among children. The figures may vary but their responsibility remains the same. Most of these figures disburse gifts secretly, mostly during night, so that the children feel overwhelmed with joy and enigma when they get up the next morning. Sinterklass is one such gift bringing figure popular in the Low Countries. He is the counterpart of Santa and has is quite similar to him in appearance also. Read on to know him more.
The concept of Sinterklass originated in Spain but this gift-bringing figure became popular in the Low Countries. He arrives during Mid-November, generally on Saturday, in a steamboat and is believed to come from Spain. He usually brings gifts like mandarin oranges to suggest that he is, in fact, coming from Spain.
Sinterklass is an old man with full white beard and white hair. He wears a traditional Bishop's vestment with a long red cape over it or, alternatively, a red stole and dons a red miter. He has a gold-coloured crosier and a long ceremonial shepherd's staff adorned with fancy curled top and ruby ring. He has a book which is believed to have accounts of each individual stating whether he was good or bad during the year that passed. Traditionally, he rides a white horse.
What He Does
Just like the popular figure Santa Clause, Sinterklass is also a gift bringing figure. It is believed that Sinterklass brings gifts from Spain and drops them for children in the shoes they keep near the chimney. He arrives around mid-November and returns by 5th of December. The fireplace and chimney have given way to modern techniques and now, the children keep their shoes next to central heating unit, which corresponds to the fireplace. Along with the shoes, they keep carrots or hay and a bowl of water for Sinterklass's horse. They sing a Sinterklass song as well and, the following day, they find some candy or some small presents in their shoes.
Sinterklass's gifts include certain things which are typical to Christmas. Gifts may be mandarin oranges, hot chocolate, letter-shaped pastry, chocolate letter, pepernoten, speculaas, chocolate coins or marzipan figures. Newer Sinterklass sometimes offers a Chocolate statuette of Sinterklaas as well.
Like the Santa's elves, Sinterklass too has helpers called Zwarte Pieten or Black Peten, A black pete is believed to be an adolescent with black face and black curly hair. He comes in colorful 17th century page-like attire, often adorned with a lace collar, and donning a feathered cap.
Sinterklaas and his Black Pete, just like the Santa, carry a bag filled with candy to distribute among good children. Naughty children get a slap with the roe i.e. a chimney broom. According to the olden day songs, Sinterklass puts the naughty children in his bag and takes them to Spain. The tradition of the Black Peten tossing candy can be related to the Legend of Saint Nicholas and the three purses of gold.
As is obvious from the name itself, Sinterklass is just another apparition of Santa Claus and/or Father Christmas and other similar figures. He may not reside in the North Pole but he does help keep the Christmas day and spirit alive!