Every year, on the 5th of December, the Netherlands celebrates the birthday of a very old man. His name is St Nicolas. He has a long white beard and he rides on a white horse over the rooftops. We kids call him also Sinterklaas. He is a nice man because he brings presents to kids who are good. Sounds familiar? Yes, Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are related. However Sinterklaas was there first.

 

Sinterklaas and the mustapekkas make their entrance in Amsterdam

Sinterklaas always makes his entrance in the Netherlands by boat in Amsterdam. He is supposed to come all the way from Spain (Don't ask the Spanish about this, you will get some uncomprehending looks). Sinterklaas is usually assisted by some black assistants. We call them “Zwarte Piet” (mustapekka). Zwarte Piet is usually an friendly clown who likes to make jokes with kids while Sinterklaas is usually a figure of authority. Sinterklaas has a book with all your good deeds and naughty stuff that you did during year (supplied by the parents of course), and decides whether to give you a present, a birching, or to throw you in the bag and send you to Spain. Aah well, that is to say. Those last punishments we don't do any more.

 

Sinterklaas and the mustapekkas make
their entrance in Amsterdam

We are a bit more civilized nowadays.Sinterklaas at home.When I was young we sat with the whole family beside a plastic bath in which my mother had put all the presents (delivered by Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet of course). We sang songs about Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. My mother had a whole song book full of them and even an LP with Sinterklaas songs. My brother and I were eager to see what Sinterklaas had brought. Silly poems were attached to every present and had to be read first before one could tear the paper open. In the mean time mustapekka sometimes returned to throw pepernoten. A Dutch delicacy which is especially used in the Sinterklaas party. It tastes like pippurikakku but is smaller, much smaller. We scrambled through the living room to find all those little sweets that were so generously thrown on a clean floor. As you become older, you understand of course that Sinterklaas does not exist. That you get rarely anything for free, but you keep those nice memories of sitting in front of that old plastic tub that my mother used on ordinary days for her laundry. Most Dutch people have such memories and we cherish them with a certain fondness.So it came as very cold shower when a man named Quinsy Gario started to protest about Zwarte Piet. Mustapekka is a form of discrimination he said. Now there he touched a sour spot. We Dutchies don't think of ourselves

 
Quinsy Gario. Born and raised on the Dutch Antillen, speaks Dutch, writes poetry in Dutch,is Dutch.

as discriminating people. And as far as I can see for most part we don't. When I think of mustapekka I think of the jolly clown who made such fun. Not as a slave of Sinterklaas. Fond memories. How does he dare to call that discrimination? But he dared, he provoked and the whole country tried to prove him wrong. The problem however with that kind of discussion is that the harder you have try to prove that someone is wrong, the more likely it is that he is right. You see, it is not for me to judge whether or not my act is discriminating. It is for the person in question to judge if he feels discriminated. So if Quinsy Gario feels discriminated he probably is. Many people in the Netherlands want to have none of this. They want to keep their traditions. Sinterklaas is a bishop with a white beard and a white horse. Mustapekka is black. No discussion please. Don't dare to try say anything against like Anouk did (you may remember her from the song birds in the Euro song contest 2013). You get all kinds of shit throw at you. Fortunately Anouk is a strong woman who can manage the negative side of being famous quite well. But worse, freaks on both sides of discussion seem to find an excuse to do horrible things. That's not how it should be on a children's party. Both sides seem to realize that, but are blaming each other for the deterioration of the situation. What the solution will be is unknown yet. Both the city of Amsterdam and the TV program "Sinterklaas uutiset" will have a huge influence on what is to come. And not in the least the kids themselves. One parent remarked that he was surprised to see that his kid was not wondering about a mustapekka who was not black. It is therefore more an adult problem than a children's problem and I hope we find a compromise soon. As for me, I am happy that cracks are occurring. Why can't mustapekka be red, blue or green? Isn't it time to rewrite the old Sinterklaas songs? Some were already seriously outdated when I sat beside that tub. Time for renewal you would think. And never fear. It will always remain a typical Dutch children's party.

Colored PekkasA bunch of colored Pekkas

 

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As a child I did not like anything that was a permanent attachment to the body. Earrings?? Oouch! Ears are sensitive things. To think that an earring might be ripped off by accident was not a prospect I liked to entertain. I got bad dreams at night.

Rings on your finger? Not for me. When your fingers are swollen it becomes hurting like you are clapped in chains. Rings are pure torture. Sensitive as I am I have never worn one. Not even at my wedding and also not after.

Not to speak of tattoos. It seemed to me a permanent disfigurement of the body. And that was before they invented piercings. Nowadays you find those everywhere. Also at the intimate parts of the body. I cant understand that. Are they never in the way? Don't they itch or hurt? I have no chance to find out, because I like my phobia.

Is your body not beautiful enough? Did it add something to put a slave brand there? In my imagination I can hear the sound of burning skin when a tattoo is put. It is not a fear of needles. I can stand needles. All my life they have been taking my blood with a needle on a regular basis. I can stand that.

Google "no tattoos" on the net and you get quite a few. Not time this though. In the mean time more and more people seem to have a tattoo or piercing. It has become a normal form of body decoration, but not so normal that you would like to show it off at your future employer. Some branches, like accountancy, are very conservative. In that case it is better not show your tattoo even after you are hired. Some people mark exactly how far the tattoo maker is supposed to go so that it remains invisible to the outside world when they don't want it to be seen. That is probably wise, but defeats the purpose in my view. You wanted to show off and now you are hiding it! Anyway that's how it is. People do judge books by their cover and when you show them a new cover you putting yourself on the judgment stand.

Does a tattoo make you a mighty warrior? The American natives painted themselves before they went to war, but that was paint. Nothing permanent like a tattoo. Also President Obama seems to think so. He does not like the idea his daughters would get a tattoo. Would the Hakkapeliitta soldiers have been tattooed? History suggest that they were the raw type. Their appearance caused as much fear as their actual fighting. Some say they had strange tattoos and other fearsome decorations.

Is it a sign of love when you have your spouses name engraved on your arm? Eternal love it has to be, because if it isn't the name is there to stay. I have heard that some people put names of loved ones who died before their time. A child that died in an accident, a son that did not come back from some distant war. That somehow makes more sense although I think that if you feel so strongly that way you don't need a permanent reminder on your body.

People who do have a tattoo rarely have regrets. Nevertheless, when they do it is a costly affair. Depending on the pigments used you need about 6 to 15 treatments every 6 weeks. With every treatment costing between 15 (1 cm²) and 125 euro depending on the size of the surface. That's just the laser treatment. If you need plastic surgery you are in for much, much more.

One girl who had regrets was a starstruck girl from Belgium. Her friend, a guy who had himself a body full of tattoos, had put 56 stars on her face. At first she was ok with that, but later she could not stand the thought that the stars on her face would stay forever. The removal of her tattoos would take three painful years and about 10.000 euro. That seems to me a waste and a trauma. Fortunately, I like myself as I am. If you have a tattoo and can say the same I am happy for you.

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