So the Dutch title of the blog is actually different. It’s about our tradition which is called: Sinterklaas. We celebrate this on the 5th of December. There is a guy with a white beard on a white horse who is called Sinterklaas. He could be the skinny brother of Santa Claus. Instead of hanging stockings you get to place your shoe at the fire place and on Sinterklaas eve the presents arrive in a big bag and have poems that you have to read out loud. Sinterklaas has helpers who are called Piet. There is a big discussion going on in the Netherlands (and even around the world) about the appearance of Piet. I could write a whole blog about that, but this one is about the lying we do as parents to let our children believe in Sinterklaas or if you are not Dutch: Santa Claus and Christmas. Or maybe you even have another tradition. It doesn’t really matter, it can apply to all traditions where we as parents make our kids believe something there is not. In this blog the tradition will be Sinterklaas 🙂
Sinterklaas without lies?
I have lots of memories of the celebration of Sinterklaas. My sweet mom did everything she could to make it a special day! We had lots of presents and she wrote the most awesome and funny poems ever. But I do also remember the excitement and tension, the threats that Piet was looking if I ate my dinner or the one time I had “the cane” in my shoe. (Children who weren’t good could get the Cane in their shoe). I still remember how I felt, because it could happen that Sinterklaas would take me back to Spain (where he is from) in the empty bag (where the presents were in). When I grew older I saw this same tension with some other kids. Some were ok, but for others it was just too much excitement. Even without any threats. But I also saw how wonderful their fantasy is, and I wondered: couldn’t we do this differently?
When the whole discussion started around the helpers of Sinterklaas, I was suddenly aware of HOW BIG and important ADULTS make this tradition, and then I realized it. I realized how the Sinterklaas tradition has grown bigger and bigger over the years and how adults do anything to let a child to believe in a fake story. And I thought: is this really necessary?
A magical world
When I became a mom, automatically I entered “another” world. The world of a child. A magical world! In this world anything is possible. It doesn’t’ really matter what they have to play with, even if you have to make up the whole thing: everything is possible. A first grade teacher who dresses up in front of the class, will become a different person as soon as she is dressed. It’s that simple for a young child.
More and more I wondered if you could also celebrate Sinterklaas (or any tradition) without lies. If Liv could make her own magic. In any case I do think that the threats, “the cane” and so on, aren’t used as much now as back then. A good thing. Me and Denny knew from the beginning we only wanted to emphasise the good things and not use this tradition to get something done with Liv. When we noticed that Liv is pretty sensitive and I read a really nice blog at Kiind Magazine about this subject, we decided we didn’t want to make it any bigger and more excited that it already is, and to tell her the truth.
How do you do that?
This might sound like a huge thing, but again that’s what we as adult make it. It’s not such a big deal. Like I started this blog: I also have a lot of good memories of Sinterklaas and I love to celebrate it. I love putting the shoe at the door (we don’t have a fire place) and Sinterklaas eve was the best! All things I love to do with Liv too. Besides that, we didn’t want Liv to bear a “a huge secret”, so we didn’t make it any bigger than it is. We just told her – at some point- that we celebrate Sinterklaas every year with presents. That there are people who dress up like Sinterklaas and Piet and that the moms and dads buy the presents. We also told her that all moms and dads would like to tell this to their children and that it’s not nice to spoil it for another kid. She completely understood. We didn’t make it a big secret.
So how do you celebrate Sinterklaas?
We celebrate like anybody else. Like I wrote before: the imagination of children is endless. They make their magical world and so does Liv. The “Sinterklaas news” on television is “real” to her (like Trolls, Barbie and True) and when she sees a Sinterklaas it’s real too. Except when she is a little scared then she will say: “it’s just a normal man dressed up like Sinterklaas, right mom?” and then I agree and that’s it. She believes what she wants to believe. The present is her shoe is ours, she knows, but she will sing a song for Sinterklaas when she puts the carrot in her shoe for Sinterklaas his horse.
Just as fun
After this first year and the truth, we can say it’s as fun! With less tension and without any lies and some situations are so much easier to explain. Because why could some children in her class put their shoe out way more than she? And why did Sinterklaas gave them presents and not her? Or why did he buy that toy for her friend that she wanted too? This is now easy to explain, because we buy the presents and not Sinterklaas. It’s not that Sinterklaas likes one kid more than another. Fortunately so.
Meanwhile Liv is showing everyone the fake presents she got from “the Silly Piet” and the paper to write her wishlist on from “Dirty Piet”. She believes what she wants to believe and we love to go along this fantasy. Of course without lying..
P.S. If you celebrate any tradition without the truth I don’t judge I’m not a messed up person because of it. This blog is not to tell you, you are “wrong”. This blog is to show you, you can also do it differently, because I know more parents are struggling.
There is also more and more articles about this subject, like this one.