Music; Ambience: Christmas music
For the past three weeks, the people of the Netherlands have been celebrating a holiday with a familiar ring to it. A certainly elderly gentlemen dressed in red and white has been in their midst, and on the evening of December 5th, he’ll ride across the rooftops, bringing presents for good boys and girls. His name? Sinterklaas. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
On the morning of December 6th, Dutch children will awaken to find baskets of presents placed besides their shoes, courtesy of Sinterklaas.
Vandepol: We believe it was a steamship from Spain that brought Sinterklaas to every town in the Netherlands. In the middle of November, he always arrives on the steamship whether it’s in Amsterdam or in the smallest town in Holland, and people welcome Sinterklaas with his white horse and his various servants.
Johannes Vandepol plays the role of Sinterklaas to many children in New York City’s Dutch community. He explains that like Santa, Sinterklaas is based on the historical figure St. Nicholas, a fourth century bishop, who is patron saint to sailors, merchants and children. Now if you change Santa’s team of reindeer to a single white horse, and his familiar costume to a Bishop’s robes, then you’ll begin to get a picture of Sinterklaas.
Vandepol: Sinterklaas, through the centuries, has been riding a white horse over the roofs and has been listening through the chimneys to see if there were any bad or good children. It’s also very much celebrated among grownups, where they give each other presents and write anonymous poems about each other in which they ridicule anything they want.
According to tradition, on the evening of December 6th, Sinterklaas, his horse and his helpers will get back on a steamboat, and set sail for Madrid, to make ready for next year’s holiday season. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.