During a typical Tuesday at Oma’s the group was gathered and making small talk like we so often do when the conversation turned to the latest controversies about Christmas. In The Netherlands there has been some complaining over their old standing tradition involving Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) and his sidekick, Zwarte Piet. As is usually the case, people without all the details or knowledge of something get offended and cause enough of a ruckus over something that they ruin it for everyone. In The Netherlands this is their tradition. If you don’t like it then don’t participate or better yet, don’t live there. I hate that in this country we have let our traditions and customs be ruined by these same types of complainers so I hope that The Netherlands stands their ground and sticks with their tradition. History is history and that is what tradition is based on. I could see perhaps if they were using this character in some negative way but all they seem to be doing is following the tradition of the story. (Which, for those who are interested in knowing, is that Zwarte Piet was a Spanish Moorish servant until St. Nick bought his freedom and he has since gone along with St. Nick to help him on his Christmas rounds. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet leave presents for the good boys and girls and the bad ones are taken back to Spain in a burlap sack or left a “roe”, which is a bundle of twigs, or a lump of coal). Nothing about this story screams racism like many are implying. It’s simply history and in history, this is who these characters were and where they came from.
There was also some recent controversy here in the states when a Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly announced that “Santa is just white”. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without adding to this the ongoing debate over the color of Jesus’ skin too. You just can’t make everyone happy. Any tradition you have seemingly sparks controversy. It’s silly that we are still so uptight about all this and trying to make things much bigger than they really are. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” anymore without someone taking offense. Better just say “Happy Holidays” to avoid upsetting those who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. It’s ridiculous and it’s sad to me. It seems this holiday is becoming nothing but a pissing match over skin color and which religion is “right”. What a shame.
For the record neither Santa nor Jesus are white. They’re Middle Eastern. Sinterklaas (aka St. Nicholas) was Turkish and Zwarte Piet was a spanish (Moorish) servant. And if you’re Christian and really want to get your panties in a bunch, you better take down your Christmas tree too because that part of Christmas all came from a Pagan tradition. The bottom line is that different places and times in history have giving us the many different Christmas traditions we know today so why not just worry about yourself and let others choose what they want to do for themselves?
As for me and my family I am from Dutch descent and I fully intend to share that with my daughter. That means as most Catholic and Europeans do, we will celebrate Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) night with the traditional shoes on the porch and St. Nicholas who arrives on a great white horse and, of course, with his trusty sidekick Zwarte Piet. We will also celebrate with Santa Claus and his reindeer. And last but certainly not least we will celebrate God and the birth of Christ too. As my daughter gets older and is able to understand the history I will tell her more about how it all came to be. The beauty of it is that, just like we are a conglomeration of our combined and various heritages, so too are our family traditions and she can grow up experiencing and appreciating each of these traditions without feeling like she is committing some mortal sin by doing so.
This is our first Christmas with the baby and I’ve just been overwhelmed by all the things I want to make part of our tradition. I bought a beautifully illustrated version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and have been reading it to her every night since twelve days before Christmas Day. So when we’re done with that it’ll be perfect timing to read her “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.
We got an Elf on the Shelf…
Then there’s family pictures, Christmas cards, driving around to see all the Christmas lights, caroling, cookies and crafts. Oh of course there’s crafts!…
So far we’ve made a cookie platter:
And her first ornaments:
With all these controversy going on it might be easy to lose sight of the real reason for the season…which is peace and joy and goodwill. So to all the Scrooges out there I beg of you, stop trying to ruin it. As with everything, you don’t have to participate in traditions you don’t believe in but for God’s sake don’t ruin it for the rest of us. I don’t celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa but I sure hope those that do have a great one. My daughter’s future husband may for all I know so far be it from me to kvetch about how they celebrate. If that were to happen we’d just be adding Hanukkah to our tradition I guess. The point is folks that the spirit behind all of these beliefs is the same no matter what you believe in – it’s about being together. It’s about love. It’s about giving and celebrating and believing in something greater than ourselves. So this holiday season – whichever it is that you’re celebrating – I wish you and yours a happy one.