Holidays on Ice

2010-06-02

in Books and literature

Holidays on Ice, which is made up of twelve short stories by David Sedaris, is a quick and faily entertaining read, though perhaps excessively macabre at times. It plays around with mocking pretension, but manages to come off as a bit pretentious in doing so, in a way that reminds me of The Tetherballs of Bougainville.

My favourite story is definitely “Six to Eight Black Men,” which amusingly recounts the supposed Dutch view of Saint Nicholas as a retired former Turkish bishop, now living in Spain, who delivers gifts, mock beatings, or kidnappings in the company of the unusual associated the story is named after.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

. June 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

“While eight flying reindeer are a hard pill to swallow, our Christmas story remains relatively simple. Santa lives with his wife in a remote polar village and spends one night a year traveling around the world. If you’re bad, he leaves you coal. If you’re good and live in America, he’ll give you just about anything you want. We tell our children to be good and send them off to bed, where they lie awake, anticipating their great bounty. A Dutch parent has a decidedly hairier story to relate, telling his children, “Listen, you might want to pack a few of your things together before you go to bed. The former bishop from Turkey will be coming along with six to eight black men. They might put some candy in your shoes, they might stuff you in a sack and take you to Spain, or they might just pretend to kick you. We don’t know for sure, but we want you to be prepared.””

. June 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Saint Nicholas >> the Netherlands, Belgium, and Lower Rhineland (Germany)

“Sinterklaas wears a bishop’s robes including a red cape and mitre, rides a white horse over the rooftops and is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful Moorish dress, dating back two centuries. These helpers are called ‘Zwarte Pieten‘ (“Black Petes”) or “Père Fouettard” in the French-speaking part of Belgium.

The myth is, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten put all the naughty children in sacks, and Sinterklaas took them to Spain (it is believed that Sinterklaas comes from Spain, where he returns at the end of the night). Today, this is usually considered unpaedagogical and parents have ceased to tell their children this story in earnest. Nevertheless, many Sinterklaas songs still allude to a watching Zwarte Piet and a judging Sinterklaas.”

. December 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm

EVERY year on December 5th and 6th, tens of thousands of Dutch people paint their faces black, don Renaissance-style jerkins and pantaloons, and assume the persona of Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”). The comical character plays a vital part in the celebration of the feast day of St Nicholas, known as Sinterklaas, which overshadows Christmas as the most important children’s holiday. According to a custom standardised in the late 1800s, Sinterklaas arrives on a steamboat from Spain, accompanied by a team of his black-faced servants, who distribute presents and ginger biscuits to good children while threatening to scoop up naughty ones in a sack and carry them back to Spain to pick oranges.

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