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Of coats and presents

Last weekend, I spotted a brown and purple checkered winter jacket with a faux fur trimmed hood hanging forlornly on its own on a rack in the back of the sportswear section in one of my fair city's department stores. As my current winter coat has become two sizes too big for me now that I've lost weight, I was tempted to try it on. It fit perfectly, and I was pleased to see that it was marked down so it wouldn't be too big a drain on my finances, but I wasn't too sure about the colour combination, so I put it back and walked away from it. I came back to it the next day. Again I tried it on. Again I decided I liked it. Again, I didn't buy it. But I kept thinking of it all through the following days.

Here in The Hague, Thursday evenings is late night shopping. "I wonder if that jacket's still there?", I said to myself...and lo and behold! it was. Clearly, this was meant to be. I took it to the counter, and found to my surprise that it had been marked down even more since I'd last tried it on the previous Sunday.

I took my other coat in to be altered this afternoon. I told the tailor there's no real hurry; I've already got a replacement. He told me I can come pick it up next week. I've been going through my wardrobe, chucking out all the clothes I can't wear anymore because they're too big for me. Some of these I've worn only once. Others, I haven't had a chance to wear at all. I'll take them to one of those collection points tomorrow; then maybe someone else will get to enjoy them.

Also, I'll need to go shopping for Sinterklaas presents tomorrow. Romeo, although very nearly 6, still believes the Holy Man rides across the rooftops on Dec 5th to drop his presents down the chimney, and so the whole family has to gather together to witness this magical event. Of course, we will all be distracted and miss the exact moment again, as we do each year, but my nephew won't mind as he'll be too busy opening all his packages and shouting out his thanks to Sinterklaas with each wrapper that comes off. Too bad though that for me it means I'll miss the Heroes-finale. Perhaps I should ask Sint to give me the S1 dvd?


( 3 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
Dec. 2nd, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)
Oh, I wasn't aware of the Santa-like aspect of Sinterklaas. I was there one year during the preps, but left before the actual day, so I thought there was only the marzipan exchange. Though I was in Zaandam village the day Sinterklaas arrived and was pleased to see the PC hadn't destroyed the tradition like it would have it it were taking place here or in the US. (I'm referring here to the Swartze Peitrs, not sure of the spelling)

Enjoy! It only happens once a year. And congrats on the coat bargain! When you can't get something like that out of your mind and it's still there after three visits, it's got to be destiny.
Dec. 2nd, 2007 09:41 am (UTC)
A lot of learned gentlemen have written tomes on how Santa is related to the older Northern European figure of St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas in Dutch) over the last 100 years or so, and how Sinterklaas goes back to Wodan, who apparently also rode over the rooftops on his white horse, same as Sint does, to drop dried apples down the smoke holes.

When we're little, we put our shoes out by the fire (or in modern houses, the radiator), stuffed with straw and carrots for Sinterklaas's white horse (who in this day and age goes by the name of Amerigo) and sing traditional Sinterklaas songs telling him what good children we've been and exhorting him to leave us lots of presents, before we go to bed. Then in the night, Sint and Piet will climb down the chimney (or Piet will, which is why he's covered in soot) and exchange the straw and carrots for presents and sweets...Here in Holland, most people still exchange gifts with Sinterklaas, esp. when there are children involved, rather than with Christmas.

Children will stop believing in Sinterklaas around the time they're 6 or 7 years old; and when there are no little believers anymore, the ritual will change slightly -- there's still the (supposedly) anonymous gift exchange, but now there's poems attached to them, ridiculing the recipient by alluding to their foibles, but in a good way; and the presents are often disguised to look like something else, too. Sometimes Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet will make housecalls (students often dress up and hire themselves out as such), and Sint will read from the Great Book (usually the telephone directory) to see if the householderrs have been good that year, and if they haven't, he'll threaten to take them back to Spain in the sack (Piet always carries a big sack of presents with him).

There have been attempts by the PC posse in recent years to ban or neutralise Zwarte Piet, but they haven't been very successful. Children tend to be very traditionalist and will not readily accept female or pastel coloured Piet as the real thing. Besides, everyone knows that Zwarte Piet is a) a Moor from Spain, i.e. an Arab, not a black man and b) Sinterklaas's helper, but not his slave.
Dec. 2nd, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
Haha! I would have thought in the middle of a Dutch winter, a trip to Spain in a sack would be most welcome. ;)

That the Zwarte Piet are Spanish Moors did not occur to me on the day I saw Sint. But I did not grow up with your traditions, so looking from the outside in, it was a little... surprising. (or course, the fact they were *midgets* with face black on didn't help this) BUT! I like life to be like that. :) And as I said, I believe it's good that the PC posse (what a wonderful term!) hasn't managed to strangle the life out of the tradition. I'm still a little bewildered about the banning of gollywogs here and in England. And the changes made to Sesame Street in recent years (a Cookie Monster who likes carrots? Come ON).
( 3 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )