About Dutch Christmas

About Dutch Christmas image by Vintage card, origin unknown

Overview

In the Netherlands a star-shaped light, called an advent star, is typically hung in the window as a Christmas decoration. Dutch children believe Saint Nicholas to be a man of great kindness and generosity. He is an intricate part of their Christmas celebration. Favorite Christmas foods include marzipan, boiled chestnuts, and kerstkrans, which is a Christmas wreath made from pastry. Christmas dinner might include roast goose, turkey, rabbit or venison. At sunset during Christmas time in Holland, farmers will blow horns over water wells to symbolize the announcement of Christ's birth. This generates a loud sound that vibrates off the water. The decorated Christmas tree was introduced to Holland in the 19th century.

Geography

The Dutch are the people of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a small country situated in northwestern Europe on the North Sea. The Netherlands is also referred to as Holland, although Holland is actually one portion of the country. Dutch immigrants to the American colonies in the 1600s introduced their Christmas traditions to their new home.

Sinterklass

The legend of Santa Claus may have originated from a bishop of Myra, near Patara, which is now Turkey. According to the legend the bishop threw three bags of money through an open window of a nobleman's home, so that the nobleman's three daughters could have a dowry and be married. The bishop was known as Saint Nicholas. In the Netherlands, the Dutch gave Saint Nicholas Sinterklass the nickname and incorporated him into their Christmas traditions. When Dutch settlers immigrated to the American colonies in the 1600s, they brought along their legend of Sinterklass, which was adopted by the English settlers. Eventually Sinterklass was pronounced as Santa Claus.

Legends

Dutch children believe that Sinterklass is a tall, thin man wearing a red bishop's robe and hat. He is accompanied by Black Peter who is dressed in the Renaissance style. Sinterklass rides a white horse while his companion rides a mule. Black Peter's face is covered with soot and he is sometimes depicted as having red eyes and horns. According to legend he is the devil that has been captured by Saint Nicholas to do his bidding. Black Peter will move from rooftop to rooftop, traveling up and down the chimneys to gain entrance to the homes so he can leave gifts in the wooden shoes that are waiting by the hearth. According to legend Sinterklass sails to the Netherlands from Spain each year in time for the feast on December 5th.

Traditions

Christmas traditions in the Netherlands include Saint Nicholas parties, held on December 6. During this time the children travel to the Amsterdam harbor to catch a peek at the ship bringing Sinterklass from Spain. Children are told that Sinterklass will disguise himself as a familiar figure, such as a parent or uncle, who will ask them if they have been naughty or nice. The children will fill their shoes with hay and sugar and leave them outside for Sinterklass' horse. In the morning the children will awake to find treats and gifts have replaced the hay and sugar. On Christmas Day the family will go to church. The day after Christmas is called Second Christmas, and during that day family will gather for a holiday visit.

Dates

The Dutch Christmas celebration includes St. Nicholas Eve or Sinterklass Avond, on December 5. This is supposed to be the day before St. Nicholas arrives from Spain. On the 6th of December the family gathers for holiday celebrations. Christmas Day is on December 25, the Second Christmas is the following day, and on January 6 they celebrate Three Kings Day. Three Kings Day celebrates the Biblical story of three kings who visited Jesus. In the Netherlands, children in groups of three might carol from house to house, each dressed as one of the three kings. They may receive a treat at each home.

About this Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University of Fullerton.

Photo by: Vintage card, origin unknown

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