Wednesday, December 24, 2014

J. C. McKenzie's Christmas Sinterklaas Dag

Sinterklaas Dag (Saint Nicholas Day)
by J.C. McKenzie

    My father was born in one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands and grew up skating on frozen dikes and eating salted licorice. Then Hitler’s armies marched on Europe and the world turned to chaos. Our family survived the Second World War and Nazi occupation, but after the Berlin Blockade of 1948, many, including my Opafeared communism would sweep Europe

    As the cost to rebuild far exceeded the cost of providing a cash incentive, the Dutch government paid citizens to leave the country, and Canada offered a fresh start to many Dutch families. My dad immigrated to Canada with his family when he was only ten years old. He learned English on the boat over to North America by reading comic books and once his family settled in Ontario, his dad (my Opa) switched to speaking English and insisted the family be “Canadian,” not Dutch. My Opa wanted to blend in and embrace his new country. 

    Although my dad complied and became very much an English speaking Canadian, one Dutch celebration remained—Sinterklaas Dag.  Saint Nicholas is what the North American Santa Claus is based on, but there are a few differences. Sinterklaas rides on a white horse instead of a sleigh pulled by twelve reindeer (thirteen if you count Rudolph); instead of elves, he as a helper named Zwarte Piet; and instead of gifts on December 25thSinterklaasdelivers chocolatekruidnootjes (small ginger cookies) and other goodies on December 5th in children’s wooden clogs (klompen) if they’ve been good. If they’ve been bad, the children get coal in their klompen, instead. If they’ve been really bad, Zwarte Piet would throw them in his sack and take them away.

    On December 5th, my sister and I would wake up, excited, and run to the kitchen, smelling of oatmeal, to find ouchocolate letters. I always thought her “H” had more chocolate than my “J” and wished I could change my name. My dad would prattle off something in Dutch with a glint in his eye. He’d pull our pigtails and tease us about having to wait until after dinner to eat our chocolate. We never did. 

    Later, I would check my usually empty mailbox in the dorms at University to find my chocolate letter. Even later, when living in New Zealand, I’d receive the chocolate letter, shipped all the way from Canada with love. Later still, back in Canada, I’d get a package with letters for me, my husband and our son. 
December 5th is the day the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas. To me, it’s a day of love, smelling of oatmeal and chocolate, and the day I celebrate my Dutch heritage.

J.C. McKenzie 
Urban Fantasy Author 

*Available Now* 
Shift Happens (Carus Series, Book 1), The Wild Rose Press 
The Shucker's Booktique (A Lobster Cove Book), The Wild Rose Press 

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Beast Coast (Carus Series, Book 2), The Wild Rose Press 

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