I already had my Christmas tree up a week ago. No self-respecting Dutch decorates their Christmas tree before St. Nicolas, which in Holland is celebrated on the eve of December 5th, but I’ve been out of the country for so long that that is a tradition I have ditched. However, we did celebrate Saint Nicolas on Sunday, and so now I can come out of the closet with my tree.
Saint Nicolas is checking in his Big Book to see whether she has been nice
The Dutch community in Lebanon is a small, but pretty tight one. Quite a few of them are ‘doing life’ which is what you get when you marry a local boy. And on Sunday we drove to the mountains above Beirut to celebrate Saint Nicolas. It is quite close to the Lebanese tradition of Saint Barbara , but that’s a different saint all together.
Of the few tradition we Dutch have, Saint Nicolas is one you celebrate if you have ‘believers’ in the family. ‘Believers’ are in general small children up to the age of 12. After that (or probably way before that, but they still play along in order to get gifts) they no longer believe in this bishop of Spain who miraculously drops by on the night of December the fifth, and doles out presents to all the Dutch children, no matter where on Earth they live.
I still have one believer in the house, a nine year old, who was slightly disappointed this year over the gift that Saint Nicolas had chosen for her. “I wouldn’t have gone for a suit case,” she said, after viewing the little blue suitcase on wheels. Well, better luck next year (if you still believe by then; otherwise, no gifts).
We’re lucky that we’re still celebrating it with Zwarte Piet (black Pete), Saint Nicolas helpers. In Holland there’s been a debate going on for quite some time about the possible racist implications of Saint Nicolas’s black helpers. In Canada, the Dutch community was not allowed to celebrate it with the black helpers. (You read this, H? That's right next door to you. Oh, those Canadians).
No worries about this in Lebanon.