Every year, from 1981, I told my pupils, that my own child(ren -after ‘83) (was) were lucky because they got two lots of presents, in December. On the 5th and the 25th.
By 1980, my parents and I had stopped believing in the good saint.
When I was little and living in the Bockenbergstraat ( Goat-and-mountain Street), in Gouda ………
…..on the cold, dark winter evenings, of the 5th, there was usually a knock on the front door.
My cousins and I would rush into the corridor but St Nicholas had already moved on, across the rooftops, on his white horse, with politically incorrect (then) black Pete®, (his black servant, from Spain) running around delivering presents or putting naughty children in bags, ready to beat them and take them back to Spain.
When we returned to the lounge-room, it transpired that the good saint HAD already left the presents, near our shoes and taken the water and the bits of “hay”, or carrot, for the white horse.
I knew St Nicholas was in town because he’d also been to the pre-school, that I attended, where one year he was short. The next year he was very tall. ( But I gues someone who can fit down chimneys, where Dutch houses have them, can be different sizes. )
Later he came to 1st class and 2nd class, in the primary school as well, with his golden book and presents.
When my daughter was born in October, 1981, in December 1981, St Nicholas started visiting her and her Oma and Opa and parents, just like he does to so many other children who have at least one Dutch-born parent, or grandparents.
You see, St Nicholas has time to come to Australia, before he delivers presents in the Netherlands, because, in winter, we, in Sydney, are 10 hours ahead. He still comes here. (To the nursing homes, and the Dutch club, in St Marys but not to my children any more.
I play the St Nicholas songs, to help put the invited guests, at the nursing homes, in the mood.
He also comes to Bondi Beach but I haven’t seen that.
In the fifties, I saw him ride down George Street, near Sydney Town Hall. Those were the days!!
(Dutch emigrants also took Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) to New Amsterdam (New York) and like myself, he anglocised his name to Santa Claus. Easier to pronounce than Sint-Er-clahs.
( The Sinterklaas tradition is something that Dutch-Australians can DO something with, to remind their (grand-)children of the Dutch heritage. Back in the Netherlands, Santa Claus has taken a stronger hold. Sinterklaas still arrives, in the country, on his steamship, from Spain, and is usually still welcomed by local mayors and such but bringing ‘black servants’ with him, has given authorities something to think about and the world is getting smaller and smaller. Santa is getting bigger and bigger (as you can imagine).
Would be ironic if the original St Nick tradition survived better among the ex-Netherlanders and their off-spring.