Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quirky traditions make travel enchanting

I visit Holland every year for the 5th of December to enjoy the tradition of Sinterklaas with relatives. Then I get to celebrate Christmas on the 25th again in the USA.(I like to “double dip”). It is believed that the tradition of Santa (Father Christmas) originated in 340 A.C, when the Bishop of Myra gave sweets to children. The legend of the kindly Pope’s representative arriving is played out with much pageantry in Holland to this day. Sinterklaas arrives annually on a Saturday at the end of November. This event is broadcast on national Television, each year he arrives at a different city by boat.

Children watch the TV news every day in Holland, to hear about his voyage. This year the Sinterklaas Journal had lots of children in dismay because he almost landed, but his boat had to turn around because they forgot to bring his Staff, and had to turn around to go back for it. Luckily, we know from previous years, that no matter what sort of exploits happen, Sint arrives on time to deliver gifts on the 5th of December.
I traveled to Amsterdam with some friends from America and enjoyed their astonishment at seeing Santa’s helpers because he is always accompanied by 2 fake black moors! They are both named “zwarte Piet”( Translated is: “black Peter”). I have to admit, it is the strangest thing to see 2 grown men in tights with black makeup covering their faces! Well worth hopping on a KLM flight to cross the pond to experience a Dutch Christmas, if you can keep a straight face.               
Unfortunately, this year there is a small group of people that are asking United Nations to ban this
tradition of Black Piet because the historical character was a slave. I don’t think that they can change history and I don’t understand why they would try to stop children from being fond of Sniterklaas helpers. He’s a mischievous lad but Dutch children adore him.
Children place one of their shoes in front of the fireplace (or heater). Inside the shoe, they put a carrot (for his horse), and a list of desired gifts that they hope will appear on December 5. Did you notice that I said that in Holland St. Nic delivers the gifts on Dec 5th and not on Dec 25 as he does in other parts of the world and that he has a horse in the Netherlands whereas he needs reindeer to travel globally? ~~~~Visit a Christmas market and drink hot “gluwine” with traditional “Snert” {Pea soup) to really experience this wonderful season.
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New York - Paris $1,459. or to Amsterdam. If you are Elite there is a small chance that you will get upgraded to Premium Economy or to be sure you can latch on to this offer by booking your seat in Premium Economy to travel, à la Françoise.