Dutch Culture Integration; Diversity at home
When speaking of Diversity, living in the Netherlands has impact on you and your complete family. Meaning you, your spouse and of course your kids. This Dutch culture, like any other, is rich in traditions. And this you will experience especially during the ‘most wonderful time’ of the year. And how does this form of Diversity integrate into your family life?
Diversity & integration; living together or apart?
When moving to another country like the Netherlands, you learn in your social environment what Dutch culture is about. But also from your kids you will learn a lot of stuff on the cultural part pretty soon. All Dutch and International schools in the Netherlands will follow most Dutch traditions and explain some of the background of the Dutch Culture.
Diversity & integration are a two way street.
In relation to that, we also see it the other way around; Diversity & integration are a two way street. Nowadays many American traditions have been integrated firmly into Dutch culture. For example, in the Netherlands we now celebrate Valentine’s day, Halloween and Christmas much more than we used to before. As a result of that, there is more marketing & merchandise on these events than ever. Due to this, some Dutch might feel that Santa Claus (which they call the ‘Kerstman’) has repressed Sinterklaas a bit to the background.
Sinterklaas is an expat
Sinterklaas is a national beloved figure here. He is adored especially by kids under the age of 10. This bishop orginally from Myra-Turkey (now that’s Diversity) is believed to live in Spain.. This old white-bearded man in a red robe, named Sint (Saint) travels every year on a steam-boat to the Netherlands. Where he yearly arrives on November 18th with his Support Crew of Pieten (Peters), to carry all the presents.
This childrens’ Hero Sinterklaas, has a large book in which he records who has been good. Or bad. Really means a child receives presents on December 5th on “Pakjes-avond’. Sinterklaas, old man on a white horse, is always accompanied by his athletic Support Team of Peters (Pieten). All presents are throw into the chimney, so Sinterklaas has a very acrobatic white horse as wel.
As you can see, a lot of details are quite similar to Santa, but in a different way.
Dutch Culture in celebrating Sinterklaas
Most presents from the Sint come with small poems. And in these poems you can find sometimes some sarcasm and irony. Which is allowed and even appreciated. There might be even a lesson in this accompanying poem. The Dutch just love to do that to one another. Maybe this is even the most indirect way they communicate within families, Their Sinterklaas is the channel!
After kids stop believing in this holy Sinterklaas, families change the tradition into a family night with ‘surprises’. They pick names and for this specific name, surprises are crafted to symbolise something. The surprise a throw-away thing, sometimes a high quality object made with skill and effort. But also sometimes a dirty one with sticky elements. The present is mostly hidden in the surpise.
Diversity and it’s impact on Dutch traditions
Dutch Culture has had many influences throughout the last decades, and the discussion of Sinterklaas’s Team has been one of Diversity in relation to slavery & discrimination. This explains why we now have all sorts of Rainbow colored people in Sint’s Support Team.
Diversity is enriching
I remember visiting an American family in New York once; they still celebrated Sinterklaas after having lived in Holland for about 4 years. They just loved the tradition’, they said. And it’s a fun way to express deep and warm feelings, with some critical and edgy remarks here and there.
So our question today: Do you celebrate Sinterklaas? Or Santa? Or both (maybe your kids are cheering now).
And how do you do it? Let us know if Diversity is integrating some Dutch traditions into your family life for you.