Looking for fun things in the city. Stories that are rarely published in the city guides you can buy.
And of course sharing it with you, so you know more about what you see when exploring the city !
A fun way to learn about Bruges and Belgium when you want to come over and visit us !
Your Bruges is becoming a hot item in the city ! With walks almost every day of the weekends it's a hit !
Even in the "low season" it's so busy. And the summer bookings are coming in on a fast tempo.
Check it out on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/yourbruges ).
And spread the word, there's a new guide in town !
Some visitors get confused, and I can understand them. When
they’re walking around in Bruges, they go in the chocolate shops and see two
different Santa’s standing.
When asking what’s that all about, they get the reply that
there is “Sinterklaas” and “Santa Claus”. But, wait a minute… If you translate
Sinterklaas, that IS Santa Claus… What the hell??
In Belgium and the Netherlands (generally the former Dutch
colonies) we have two “Santa’s”. The first is Sinterklaas (as we call him) and
that’s celebrated on December 6th. Where the heck did he come from?
Well, somewhere in the 2nd - 3rd
century there was a Bisshop Nicolaas of Myra who lived in Turkey (the country,
not the bird…) and died on… December 6th 342. Due to some legends,
he became patron for children. Legends were of 3 schoolchildren beaten to death
by an innkeeper but revived by St Nicolaas, 3 poor daughters who could still
get married thanks to the gifts given by St Nicolaas or the legend of a child
being put in a bath by St Nicolaas to protect him from a fire.
You may notice that “Sinterklaas” is kinda sounding like
Saint Nicolaas but it’s not exactly the same. The aggregation happened
somewhere in the late 1200’s. Since then he was considered the big friend for
all children, giving out candy and presents. During the history his role
changed to a bogeyman who rewarded the good children, but punished the bad by
putting them in a bag.
In the 1700’s it was changed back to the good man we know today, using the bag
for putting the presents in, not kids…
So he changed from patron for children, to a bogeyman,
strict pedagogue into the folkloric friend for all children we have today.
Santa Claus comes from Saint Nicolaas. Remember there where
a lot of Dutch when the new colonies were started? Well, in time the name
changed and with the reformation and contra reformation a lot changed.
Protestants banned the feast of St Nicolaas. But it was so popular with the
common people it didn’t completely disappear. It transformed.
The first drawing of the Santa Claus we know today is from
Thomas Nast in 1881. I added a picture of it below.
The American Santa Claus is probably a mix of Father Christmas and Saint
So don’t go saying Santa Claus to Saint Nicolaas in Belgium,
it is totally different.
Saint Nicolaas rides a horse, accompagnied by his helpers
(Zwarte Pieten). Santa Claus has his sleigh with the reindeers and is helped by
his elves. Common is the mistake people say Saint Nicolaas lives in Spain, but
he only travels to Spain to get the gifts and sweets. Santa Claus lives on the
I’d like to finish with a poem… Yes I know, it’s not my
habit in doing this, but it’s such a known, and nice poem. In 1823 an unknown
author published A visit from St Nicholas. Enjoy !
the night before Christmas, when all through the house
a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
children were nestled all snug in their beds,
visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
to the window I flew like a flash,
open the shutters and threw up the sash.
moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
what to my wondering eyes should appear,
a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
a little old driver, so lively and quick,
knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
I drew in my head, and was turning around,
the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
had a broad face and a little round belly,
shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
laying his finger aside of his nose,
giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."