Thursday, December 09, 2004

In Germany, a Christmas-season contest: Santa vs. St. Nicholas

The above is a neat piece detailing how Santa Claus is slowly pushing out the more native Christmas traditions like some exotic and invasive species in a delicate ecosystem. Some background from the article:
The myth of Santa Claus evolved from the fusion of two figures: gift-bearing Saint Nicholas and the representation of the infant Jesus known as "Christkindlein" (Christ child), which later became "Kriss Kringle." After Dutch immigrants brought Sinter Klaas to the US, German immigrant Thomas Nast drew a lasting image of a man with the white beard and sparkling eyes. Then in the early 1930s, Coca Cola, in need of a spokesman to boost sales, tapped the merry figure, completing his path from saint to salesman.
I too watched Sinterklaas (usual Dutch spelling) get shoved aside for Santa during my years in Holland. Sure, while I was living there I could have done without the little gifts on December 5th - and the nasty things they're packed in (e.g., fish soiled newspapers) and the nasty poems that composed just for you by the gift giver highlighting your bad habits and gaffes. I probably would not have missed the teenage girls in blackface (zwartepieten) and the screams of little children as they approach them to give the children candy and not, as the children have been told by their parents all year, to take them back to Spain in a burlap sack to work in the mines.

Still, I may not personally enjoy vaudeville or pork rinds, but like Sinterklaas, it's nice to know they're still around somewhere.


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