First Saturday after November, 11th. Today arrive Sinterklaas from Spain. He has sailed the river Wall to dock at Waalkade, with his wite-grey horse and Zwarte Piet. Together go through the town of Nijmegen to visit all the little boys and girls of the city. To give them greetings and ginger biscuits.
The children, with their parents, wait on both sides of the roads, impatiently, the arrival of the Saint and the start of the procession. They will keep this tension also after the end of the parade, until December 5th when they will receive wonderful and joyful presents from him. But only who has been good. But who knows why they are always good at the end of the year.
The event of St. Nicholas, protector of sealers and children, is not celebrated in this fashion in other countries, but only in The Netherlands. He arrives here on a boat from Spain. Why Spain? Maybe because connected with the historical origin of the Saint. In fact, his relic is preserved in the city of Bari (Italy), which belonged in 18th century to the reign of Spain. Another characteristic that distinguish the figure of the Saint in Holland respect to the other countries is the presence of Zwarte Piet. He is the person who support St. Nicholas and that identify the good children from the bad ones. His black skin date back to 1800 in a first illustration of the Saint of Jan Schenkman, which cause today a great racial debate. Of course the time in which the illustration has been done is different from the present and brings aspects of life that are not applicable today. For sure, if we had made the drawing today, we would have done it differently.
In my opinion, it is not necessary modify the history. But we need to change the old and ancient interpretation with a new and present one. This is a new event for me, too. And the way I have interpreted the figure of Zwarte Piet is that of a person who has an extremely important role. He is close to the chimney to decide who is good and who is bad. Who gives sweets to children and liked by children. People of any color and gender that want to dress Zwarte Piet, without prejudice, with the only scope to make happy the others. I love that motto from the cartoon kung-fu Panda ‘yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift’. Let’s make then the present in the way we want and in the best way.