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Santa Clause
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Santa Clause

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas ("Sinterklaas", often called "De Goede Sint" — "The Good Saint") is aided by helpers commonly known as Zwarte Piet in Dutch ("Black Peter") or "Père Fouettard" in French. His feast on December 6 came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. However, in the Netherlands the Dutch celebrate on the evening of December 5, with a celebration called "pakjesavond". In the Reformation in 16th-17th century Europe, many Protestants and others changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date for giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.[21]

Tradition holds that Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) and his aides arrive each year by steam boat from Spain in mid November. Black Peter carrys the book that contains notes on all children that indicate whether the child has been good or naughty during the year. The entourage carries gifts, chocolate letters and spice nuts to be handed to the well-behaved children. During the subsequent three weeks, Saint Nicholas is believed to ride a white-grey horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children, while the naughty children risk being caught by Saint Nicholas' aides that carry jute bags and willow canes for that purpose.[22]

In contrast to Santa Claus, Sinterklaas is an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop's alb and sometimes red stola, dons a red mitre, and holds a gold-coloured crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd's staff with a fancy curled top. He carries a big book that tells whether each individual child has been good or naughty in the past year. He traditionally rides a white gray.

In Netherlands and Belgium next to Sinterklaas the character of Santa Claus is also known, He is known as de Kerstman in Dutch ("the Christmas man") and Père Noël ("Father Christmas") in French. But for children in the Netherlands Sinterklaas is the predominant gift-giver in in December (36% of the population only give presents on Sinterklaas day), Christmas is used by another fifth of the Dutch population to give presents. (21% give presents on Christmas only). Some 26% of the Dutch population give presents on both days.[23] In Belgium, presents are given to children only, but to almost all of them, on Sinterklaas day. On Christmas Day, everybody receives presents, but often without Santa Claus' help.

In recent years, some consider it racist to have Black Peter and want him eliminated from any festival or mention.


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