Last year the kids fast tracked their Dutch skills and no longer sounded like my kids when they spoke. They morphed into little Dutch children and sounded like their friends…they also fully understood what everyone was going on about.
Up to last year they were in a bit of a foggy bubble. They got the general gist of things, but all the bells and whistles were lost.
As their understanding of all the goings on around them increased, they became more Dutch.
They were Dutchified.
Dutchness zipped off them like rays.
They embraced all the Dutch traditions and enthusiastically celebrated the arrival of Dutch Santa, called Sinterklaas, and his helpers, called Pete.
Sinterklaas? You ask…
He comes mid December, by boat from Spain.
Rides a horse.
Looks a bit more religious and well…. I don’t want to fat shame, but he looks like he has made better life choices than Santa.
There are treats in shoes for weeks and a final flurry of present giving on the 5th of December, before they all go home.
We did it all, cheered Sinterklaas and his helpers – the Petes – as they arrived up the canal, put treats in shoes, got our lovely neighbour to ring our bell and run away leaving presents on the doorstep, wrote random poems, ate too many sweets…the whole kit and kaboodle. We even watched the Sinterklaas Journaal on line so we could see what Sint and the Petes were up to on the boat over to the Netherlands.
The 3 year old liked the songs, the dances and most of all she was OBSESSED with all the constant supply of sweets and those tiny pepernoten cookies that were handed out everywhere.
I had a bit of a mental heart attack watching my daughter accept sweets out of a sack from strange men in full black face make up, but there you go, raising kids in a culture not your own is full of jaw droppers.
(“Sweetheart, only take sweets from strange men at Christmas. OK?!”)
When they all left, it left us with a lingering question.
What about Santa?
My kids were hot on the heels with wondering when he’d be arriving.
You can’t escape Santa.
He is everywhere.
But if you think I’m doing both Sint & Santa you have to be out of your flipping minds.
So we killed off Santa.
YUP. Bye bye beardy.
We explained that the Netherlands is so special to have Sinterklaas. He doesn’t go to the English and Irish kids. And likewise Santa doesn’t come to the Netherlands.
It’s a kind of Christmas apartheid.
Santa knows that Sinterklaas has it under control. Also Santa doesn’t speak Dutch, so he wouldn’t be able to understand what the kids here want for their presents.
The kids nodded.
That made sense.
“So we won’t be getting ANYTHING at all for Christmas”, they asked?
“Of course you will”, I answered,
“It’s our special family Christmas day and we’ll give each other presents”.
“What about our stockings?” Queried the 6 year old. Him with the elephant memory of British Chrimbo the year before.
“Oh? I’ll put a present in those too.”
“By magic like Santa does?”
“Mamas ARE magic”, I retorted,
“We grow people.”
Yes. He nodded. True.
Yesterday driving back from school the kids were in the back of the car discussing their friend’s wobbly tooth. They were wondering if the tooth fairy comes to the Netherlands and if she speaks Dutch, or if she’s confined to the UK like Santa.
“No, she’s multilingual”, I prompted.
“She goes everywhere”.
I remembered a random thing I’d seen on Insta about how shit cool the Tooth Fairy is vs Santa. I applied it now…
“Santa needs a team of helpers and all sorts of transportation devices. The tooth fairy gets around on the power of her own teeny wings, speaking every language under the sun, with an endless supply of coinage.
Women are amazing.”
They weren’t listening, they’d moved on to arguing about space on the arm rest.
Another feminist rant lost to their uncaring ears.
One day they’ll hear it.