Today my Dutch friends are celebrating Sinterklass on the eve of St. Nicholas day! This is a special day because traditionally, this is the day that kids get their Christmas presents, not Christmas eve or Christmas day! The name Santa Claus has its roots in this Dutch tradition but Sinterklaas is not be mistaken for Santa Claus. St. Nicholas himself was a bishop from Myra, in Turkey who was born in 271 A.D. According to one article, "On December 5th children leave clogs or shoes out to be filled with presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas's horse, they will be left some sweets. Children are told that Zwarte Piet keeps a record of all the things they have done in the past year in a book and that good children will get presents from Sinterklaas, but bad children will get chased by Zwarte Piet with a stick!! Dutch tradition says that he lives in Madrid, Spain and every year he chooses a different harbour to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him. Every town in Holland has a few Sinterklaas helpers, dressed the same as Sinter Klaas who help give the presents out. Christmas Day itself is a much quieter day in Holland, with a Church Service and family meal. Sometimes there is a special Christmas Day 'Sunday School' in the afternoon at the church, where the Christmas Story and other traditional stories are told."
I would never have known about this tradition without my Dutch friends! One of the richest aspects of our being involved in an International church is the exposure that we've received to other cultures. Customs and traditions vary throughout the world and it is always good to be reminded that there is more than one way to do things. Not right, not wrong, just another way.
For some reason I keep this pair of wooden shoes by our fireplace. I bought them in Amsterdam when we took our first trip to The Netherlands a long time ago now. I can't even remember the year we were there! My mom always had a big pair of wooden shoes on the hearth by our fireplace and I guess it gives me a warm feeling to continue this in my own way. I like having a pair of wooden shoes in the house! I think it is especially appropriate today as I celebrate the joy my Dutch friends have brought me through the years. I am very grateful to God that I've been privileged to enter into the world of so many other cultures. It is not always easy to see things from another point of view but it is always life-enhancing to do so. Can you think of something that you've looked at from another point of view lately? Give it a try! You will surely learn something new and likely have your life enriched in some wonderful manner.