December 06, 2014

Saint Nicholas in Beirut

The Dutch celebrated their annual Saint Nicholas Feast in Beirut, an event that has an obscure religious back ground (A Turkish bishop, ending up in Spain, with assistants from the North African continent, who hands out presents to children on his birthday), and that these days it shrouded in controversy as well. Even the Americans involve themselves in the debate. That’s an interesting twist, especially after the recent incidents that involved white officers and black suspects, I’d say. Dutch children traditionally do not get presents with Christmas, they got them yesterday, the night before St. Nicolas.
The Dutch Santa and his two helpers

But communities living outside their native land often stick to traditions much more diligently, and longer, than the motherland itself, and so we still celebrate it the traditional way. When my kids were younger, they greatly feared St, Nicholas, for no apparent reason, but they loved the black Petes, because these were the guys with the candy.  In the old days, we had a Jesuit priest who would play the role of Saint Nicholas, but he retired for this role somewhere in his early eighties. These days the role of St. Nicholas is often allotted to a father who does not have young children, otherwise his own kids might suddenly recognize daddy in bishop regalia. Black Pete is played by Dutch children, although it is sometimes hard to find black Petes that actually do speak Dutch.  My daughter was a Pete this year. (the one on the left). And so the circle is round.
Santa leaves goodies in your shoes, hence the line up of shoes at the entrance


Janet said...

On a similar Note: where to get an affordable Christmas tree this year?

Anonymous said...

I find the black petes a bit racist to be honest. I know it's a harmless old tradition but nowadays it's just a bit too much on the eyes

Anonymous said...

nice outfits and colors. It's all good fun and non racist in my opinion. I wonder what the average lebanese citizen thinks of it?