Happy Santa Claus Day

Good Little Dutch Girls & Boys
will wake up to presents in their wooden shoes tomorrow

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
A Christmas Reflections Post

A bit of explanation

From the analysis of the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas on the [mostly Dutch-language] blog of Samhildanach, a Dutch religious studies scholar says:

“Sinterklaas is the festival of St. Nicholas of Myra . . . [which is surrounded by] a lot of mythology . . . although little of that is commonly known.

This saint is portrayed as a venerable man in a red and gold bishop’s gown . . . Principally, the festival is meant for young children to around the age of eight.

The young . . . believe that Sinterklaas lives in Spain [and] visits the Netherlands every year in a steam ship, accompanied by his helpers, the dark-skinned Zwarte Pieten ‘Black Petes’, dressed in frivolous colours, to offer presents to all [well-behaved] children.

Those [who] have been naughty risk [being] caned by Zwarte Piet, or in extreme cases, [being] forced in the sack and taken back to Spain.”

The article goes on to explain that the period of Sinterklaas begins at some point in November every year – a national, televised event when St. Nicholas of Myra arrives at the dock, disembarking with his white horse and his attendant(s).

“From this moment on, the children [may] put down their shoes in front of the hearth. [. . .] The morning after, a small present will be in their shoes.

The festival is mainly celebrated in the Netherlands, but there are some local variations to be found in Belgium and Germany, encompassing differentiated local traditions.”

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TWO visits from “Santa”

December 5th is sometimes referred to as “Santa Claus Day” in the United States, but it refers to a completely different Santa from the one who visits on the Eve before December 25th!

Lucky Dutch children get a visit from the St. Nicholas better known in English speaking countries in addition to the Bishop of Myra.

Known as the protector of children and revered for his compassion and generosity, the Dutch St. Nicholas developed a reputation of secret gift-giving to children who were particularly kind and generous themselves.  The tradition evolved from there and remains strong today.

Recent controversy over Black Peter

Although many Dutch historians disagree with the controversy, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) is always portrayed with black greasepaint covering his skin, which has inspired accusations of racism.

Many of those who defend the tradition argue that the black face is intended to represent soot, not race.

Since St. Nicholas and his attendant come down the chimney, “Black Peter” always slides down first – a sign of respect for the Bishop, to help him keep his robes pristine by cleaning the flue on the way down.

As a result, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) is always portrayed with a layer of black soot on his skin – represented today by the black make-up that Americans in particular interpret as “black-face.”

Earlier lithographs depicting Black Peter in a turban have generated the argument that the attendant was of Nubian heritage, and that the black make-up is intended to represent race with no disrespect attached.


How do YOU celebrate the December holidays?

I prefer to exchange gifts on Twelfth Night, when the Three Wise Men supposedly reached the Creche with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (primarily because it gives me a lot more time to get it together!)

  • Jewish children usually get small gifts throughout the Hanukkah season, one each day.
  • Families who celebrate Christmas have varying traditions.  Some open gifts first-thing Christmas morning, while others wait until after they attend a religious Christmas service.
  • Still others prefer to sleep in on the 25th, so they open THEIR presents on Christmas Eve.
  • THEN there are those who celebrate Kwanza, Festivus, Solstice – and many other December traditions, some of which do not involve the giving of gifts at all and some which reinterpret the gift-giving occasion.

How do YOU give and receive gifts at your house? 

Does anybody give gifts for all Twelve Days of Christmas (from Christmas Day until Twelfth Night, January 6th)?  Let me know in the comments below.

If you’ve written about it on your blog or website, leave us a link (only one per comment or you’ll be auto-spammed).  Let’s SHARE our traditions in the spirit of good will toward ALL.

AS ALWAYS, comments are encouraged and eagerly awaited – EVEN from Grinches – as long as you don’t make individual people wrong, and do your best to avoid the dreaded “should” word, I will approve all comers (link-spammers shot on sight, however).

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Related post: Group Coaching FAQs (frequently asked questions)


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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

26 Responses to Happy Santa Claus Day

  1. Niels says:

    Nice post! The Dutch Sinterklaas is actually the original Santa Clause. Dating back to 17th century’s New Netherland, the Dutch colonisation of the east coast of what is now the US. New York was called New Amsterdam at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this comment. I never thought about how the history of the colonization of America would be reflected in ALL of our holiday customs — besides Thanksgiving (and blown glass ornaments on Christmas trees, which I believe came from the Germans). It would make an interesting Christmas Series, yes?

      Have a great holiday.


  2. I learned a lot of Dutch tradition here. Interesting. When our kids were young they received 1 gift in the morning Christmas Eve. The rest in the afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We did the crack-of-dawn morning thing until my youngest brother stopped believing in Santa – then we stayed up late on Christmas Eve so that those of us with a sleep disorder (moi) didn’t have to struggle every Christmas. Stockings always had to wait until “morning” (whenever each of us awakened).

      Whatever out traditions, they become precious memories, cherished all the more as time passes. Thanks for sharing yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lucy Brazier says:

    This is brilliant! I wouldn’t mind being thrown in a sack and taken to Spain, to be honest. Although with all the fuss over Brexit, I’d probably be sent straight back! It’s a shame that racial murmerings have crept into this lovely tradition, it seems some people are determined to be offended, even by children’s folklore.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is the first I’ve heard about two Santas! My parents would not allow me to believe in Santa Claus, because of their religion. But it’s ok, I am married now to a man who looks like St. Nick. Children sometimes come up to him in stores to tell him what they want for Christmas. My husband has a Polish first name, Stanislaus, that rhymes with Santa Claus.

    He is very generous, too. He loves kids and they love him. Come to think of it, it’s a little like Christmas all year long. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry you missed out on the Santa experience. I found out way too young, from a couple of bossy little neighbor girls whose parents wouldn’t allow them to believe either. We managed to keep it from my younger siblings for quite a few years more, so I had some vicarious fun.

      Your husband sounds like my kind of guy — I would love to have Christmas all year long.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. tmezpoetry says:

    My Bday is Santa Claus Day…Yippee

    Liked by 1 person

  6. St. Nicholas is buried in Bari, Italy. My grandfather’s home town. His remains are a point of contention between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
    Nice article on other traditions.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My mother is Dutch so we celebrated Sinterklaas all through my childhood. Thanks for the happy memories. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Aura Gael says:

    Interesting about the Dutch tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

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