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The Saint Nicholas Center: Discovering the truth about Santa Claus
December 4, 2007 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Learn all about Sinterklaas, find out if Santa and Saint Nick the same person, and so much more!
posted by goml (19 comments total)

I see the entry for the Netherlands conveniently omits the story of Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas' evil black sidekick who kidnaps small children and sells them into slavery.
posted by dersins at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2007

posted by jouke at 2:15 PM on December 4, 2007

Yes, but we've discussed them over and over again. Here's what I had to say on that topic in 2004.
posted by ijsbrand at 2:18 PM on December 4, 2007

Germany has a similar companion that travels with "Sankt Nikolaus". Actually he has many and varied forms including a devil/demon-like character named "Krampus". However the most commonly known companion is called "Knecht Ruprecht" ("Knecht" loosely translates into "farmhand"). Ruprecht wears a primitive fur coat and carries a bundle of thin willow branches (wicker?) with which he punishes wicked children while Nikolaus gets to reward those who behaved well. Sometimes he carries a canvas bag in which he may stick bad children and carry them off.
Knecht Ruprecht as companion of St. Nicholas can be traced back to at least the 16th century. Ruprecht is probably based on the figure of Bishop St. Ruprecht who was associated with the "Rotpest" or red plague, a disease that killed cattle in winter, and thus with the devil's misdeeds. That root probably merged with older pagan notions of spirits and dark forces roaming the world during the dark and cold winter season to form the various wild, dark and scary companion characters of Nikolaus. But they are always bound to serve him. Often they're literally chained and only allowed to scare and punish children in a controlled manner.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:43 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I prefer Krampus, myself. In particular, I like the way a schnapps-drunk Krampus get to beat Austrian children up with chains. Ausgezeichnet! Good times.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:03 PM on December 4, 2007

For the purpose of explaining Sinterklaas to North-Americans I carry around a copy of David Sedaris' "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim". The Chapter "Six to Eight Black Men" gets it almost right, and I just fill in the gaps myself.
posted by easternblot at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2007

....carry the book around this week. Not always.
posted by easternblot at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2007

Psssst... Santa isn't real.
posted by pompomtom at 3:29 PM on December 4, 2007

On a related note, I remember when I lived there, there was a terrible, terrible bar in Den Haag called 'Fest van Sintaklaas'. Is it still there? I certainly hope so...
posted by ob at 4:01 PM on December 4, 2007

Of course I meant 'Feest'
posted by ob at 4:03 PM on December 4, 2007

Hahaha! You can't-a-fool me! There ain't-a-no sanity clause!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:28 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Awesome! Happy Sinterklaas!

ob, it's still there. I've walked past it, sure, but have never been inside - I can't imagine what bizarre sequence of events ever caused your ever going in there.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:08 PM on December 4, 2007

He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas.

Ack! I'm sure that's not all it fostered.
posted by effwerd at 5:37 PM on December 4, 2007

I wrote a Letter to Santa that plays on some of these themes in a very light way way back at the beginning of the millennium for an extremely low-distribution fanzine. Some of it still amuses me. A lot of it makes me cringe, but I'm posting the link anyway.

Anything I wrote more than a year ago always seems childish to me, no matter how old I seem to get. I'm 29 now. Does this feeling ever stop?
posted by ErWenn at 5:39 PM on December 4, 2007

As an older child, I remember watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and asking "Mom, didn't I know Santa Claus?", to which she would just smile and reply "Yes you did -- now get me my whiskey and change the channel."
posted by not_on_display at 6:51 PM on December 4, 2007

Thanks for reminding me I need to find some marzipan for tomorrow, and perhaps a toy, suitable for a 34-yr-old. I hope it doesn't rain, I have to go shopping on a scooter. The proper cookies are already in the pantry.
posted by Goofyy at 11:51 PM on December 4, 2007

"I see the entry for the Netherlands conveniently omits the story of Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas' evil black sidekick who kidnaps small children and sells them into slavery."

Haha well.. as politically incorrect the whole Zwarte Piet thing is, they're harmless. They haven't been used to threaten anyone for ages ;-) Now their image is of great climbers and good helpers. The main function is giving candy and gifts to kids. And the whole controverse that's mentioned on the Wikipedia page is highly exaggerated.

Have a good pakjesavond! ;-)
posted by Wafel at 5:02 AM on December 5, 2007

First, we had Sinterklaas.
Then, Americans started their own version: Santa Claus.
Then, Europe lost all sense of identity and adopted Santa Claus.
So now we have two of these old bearded guys roaming around distributing gifts in one month.

American imperialism, kids love it!
posted by Crusty at 6:17 AM on December 5, 2007

Let's not forget David Sedaris.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:37 AM on December 5, 2007

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