Sint-Maarten is Tonight, a Dutch Holiday Similar to Halloween

As I’m trying to let the creative juices in my brain flow on what subjects I’m going to cover in this new blog of mine, I was reminded that today is Sint-Maarten! Today, November 11, little Dutch kiddies will run around town with their parents (or not) dressed up in, what I assumed would be, some typical Halloween garb. Then I realized, I want to explore this.

Having a Dutch boyfriend, one thing we always do is compare American and Dutch culture. Both in the modern world and throughout history. “Only in America would you see this god awful reality television,” he says, and my retaliation, “at least we don’t swear at each other by wishing cancer or typhus on the other person!” Side note: this is one of the quirkiest things about Dutch culture, but we’ll get to all those crazy quirks later. Anyway, you get the picture. We’re constantly comparing the two cultures, norms and quirks, and I love them both (natuurlijk)!

Back to Sint-Maarten. I wanted to compare this Dutch costume holiday to the American version of Halloween. I’ll keep the comparisons coming as they’re relevant. Think Sinterklass/Christmas, Niewjaar/New Years Eve, Pasen/Easter, Koninginnedag/no American equivalent.

Halloween in the US of A seems to keep growing in popularity as the years go on. The holiday is no longer just for children to go trick-or-treating. Oh, no. Celebrities like Heidi Klum hold famously exotic annual Halloween parties where the rich and famous get to show off their fabulously freaky get-ups. College students have themed Halloween parties where the girls get to dress up like ‘sexy’ cats. Then there’s the really awesome people who dress up like meth cooks Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. It has grown from a simple idea of children dressing like ghosts, pumpkins and witches to a dramatic event with some people spending hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on a costume; from a night of candy and costume fun to a social media contest for who has the goriest/sexiest/most badass costume.

Sint-Maarten in The Netherlands is completely different. The first and most prominent difference is that Dutch kids do not dress up for this holiday. Instead, groups of children roam around from house to house singing traditional Sint-Maarten songs and holding home-made, brightly colored paper mache lanterns. They work long and hard on the lanterns, showing them off proudly as they parade around the  And perhaps the only similarity between the two holidays is that the children get to collect tasty Dutch candies and treats as they go along (although, there is no “TRICK OR TREAT!” as they ring each doorbell). Another big difference between the two holidays is that no adults participate. They leave the fun to the children. Additionally, despite the fundamental similarities between the two holidays, Sint-Maarten was traditionally known as a feast for the poor, but has continually gained popularity since the 1920’s as a fun and creative holiday for children. You can get more information here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Martin’s_Day#Netherlands.

What I take away from this: Sint-Maarten is an absolutely adorable holiday for Dutch children to practice their artistic creativity and get rewarded for it. It is also one holiday that US media and pop culture hasn’t infringed upon in The Netherlands. And what a relief! Take a look:

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I mean, how adorable is that?!

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