Halloween, Sint Maarten, Thanksgiving, Sinterklaas, Lichtjesavond, Santa Claus… On the eve of Saint Martin’s day (Sint Maarten) I find myself wondering about different holidays and the origins of customs and traditions, about identity and heritage.
Halloween – I had a very angry and disappointed kid last week: I wouldn’t let her go out in the streets ‘celebrating’ Halloween in the evening. Now before you all start shouting at me, we live in Holland and Halloween is not celebrated here (although I wish it was…) Some people here are very against ‘imported’ holidays and celebrations; I have heard of stories about children having a door slammed at their face when they went for trick or treat… even by people they knew… By the end of October my daughter had rarely spoken of Halloween, so I was quite surprised when I picked her up from school on the 31st: very enthusiastic she told me she had made plans with a friend/classmate/neighbor to go out for treat or trick… The boy’s mother is a good friend of mine and we both agreed that it was not such a good idea: it was already almost four in the afternoon, quite late to make any decent looking costume, but above all we had serious doubts about how people would react – most people don’t know it and they would probably not expect to be asked for candy and other treats. My friend is not Dutch and I’m not Dutch either… the idea of two ‘imported’ mothers letting their kids celebrate an ‘imported’ holiday seemed weird if not absurd or stupid. So we had to be the ‘bad guys’ and disappoint our kids, but we did promise them that they would be allowed to celebrate Sint Maarten, which is tomorrow.
Sint Maarten – The celebration of Saint Martin’s day has some similarities with Halloween: children go from door to door with lanterns, they sing special Sint Maarten’s songs and they ask for candies, tangerines or apples. The children are not dressed up as something/someone else, but I think that they sometimes wear a cape, a red cape… ‘I think’, because this is a dutch holiday celebrated in North Holland and we live in the middle-south, it is not a local custom. Two years ago it started being celebrated here, but in a small and uncertain scale. Some people are against it, they don’t like celebrating ‘imported’ holidays even if they are really dutch traditions… So again, we have the issue of two ‘imported’ mothers celebrating an ‘imported’ holiday, but this time we will do it. We only have to take care that the kids learn the songs on time!
Sinterklaas – The whole hype around Saint Nicolas (Sint Nikolaas or Sinterklaas) has already started here. Since I came to live in Holland this holiday has always fascinated me. I will write about it another time, in a part 2 of ‘borrowed holidays’… November and December are always extremely busy months; I really have to guard my working time this period of year: it is so easy to neglect my work in these hectic times.