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Tag: Christmas

Most of the western world is well acquanted with the jolly rotund man we like to call Santa Claus, who visits us with his reindeer-driven sleigh every Christmas Eve.

Well, the Dutch do things slightly differently. Here, we have Sinterklaas who is the main holiday figure.

Sinterklaas visits the Netherlands every year, arriving in mid November from Spain on a steamboat, and is assisted by his “Zwarte Pieten” (Black Peters). His official celebratory day though is on the 5th December, when he delivers presents to children. This year, Sinterklaas arrives later today.

Instead of reindeer, he rides around the rooftops on his horse, named Amerigo.

Now, if his name, as well as his philantophic tendencies are not enough of a clue, both Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are, in fact, based on the same historical figure, and many claim that Santa Claus is a direct adaption of Sinterklaas.

The real Saint Nicholas (as us English speakers know him), lived from 280 to 342, and is the patron saint of children, sailors, and oddly enough, Amsterdam. He was a bishop of Myra, which is now in modern-day Turkey.


With Christmastime, there comes an inescapable part of it, which is sometimes good, but more often bad. That is the music. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without some festive ditties. So, here are some of my favourites at this time of year.

And yes I know most of these songs are ancient….they just happen to be the good songs.

  • Bing Cosby, White Christmas (1941) – The best selling Christmas song ever, and one with particular relevance for me living in South Africa. The only white Christmas we get here is if it hails on Christmas day, so we always dreaming of a white Christmas
  • Jimmy Boyd, I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus (1952) – This song has come around in several covers, but is just a fun little song.
  • Gene Autry, Frosty the Snowman (1950) – covered by just about everybody, I still think this song has a catchy tune.
  • Gene Autry, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (1949) – C’mon, you knew I had to include this one. Christmas is not complete without this song.
  • Santa Claus is coming to town – Another song that Christmas would be incomplete without, giving a feeling of the anticipation of the coming presents.
  • Bobby Helms, Jingle Bell Rock (1957) – Just a little fun song.
  • Frank Sinatra, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1947) – Can you feel the festive feelings already?
  • Brenda Lee, Rockin” Around the Christmas Tree (1958) – A little lesser known than the others but still a classic.
  • Dean Martin, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1959) – Another song playing on a childhood growing up with with a summer Christmas, missing out on all that snow.
  • Winter Wonderland – This song from the thirties has literally been done by everybody. And dare I say it, another song to make me so jealous of my Northern Hemisphere relatives.

And as a special mention is Boney M”s Christmas album. This one is a true classic, and despite the fact that I would never dare listen to it any other time, and that shopping malls seem to have this album stuck on repeat for the whole season. No other album has reached this kind of status.


It has been a nice quiet Christmas so far. The shops are overcrowded as usual, but I have managed to stay away for most of that. The rest of the period has been bliss.

There have been a very muted campaign by advertisers this season, TV and radio stations have played a little bit of Christmas stuff, but have not overdone it. But most of all, I have not once yet heard anyone say “I wish people would just remember the true meaning of Christmas”, or “Christmas has become so commercialised”.

That out of everything irritates me the most. So here goes a little history lesson.

First, most people think that the true meaning of Christmas has to do with the birth of Jesus, etc, etc , and not the gift-giving and partying that we tend to focus on these days. History disagrees with this.

The really true meaning of Christmas has a bit more of a pagan feel to it. You see, back in the good old days, when the Roman Empire was still around, they had many gods, and one of them was Saturn. He was the god of agriculture, and his feast day, called Saturnalia, was around the 19th of December, and people used to celebrate it by…..wait for it….gift-giving and partying.

Now, let’s move onto the early church. The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who lived from 272 – 337 AD, was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, and as a result of this, the Roman Empire was converted to Christianity too.

The difficulty is, how do you convince people to change from their usual gods to some new religion, especially when they have been used to having some great parties with Saturnalia and that sort of thing.

Well, the answer to that, is why not keep on partying! You see, before this time, the Christian community were more concerned with celebrating Jesus’ death (ie Easter) than his birth, so the church authorities hit a brainwave. Why not take the old pagan feasts (of which Saturnalia was one) and convert them to Christianity. Strip out the old deity and insert Jesus in its place.

They even kept the date similar. The simple fact of the date is that no-one really knows what day Jesus was born on, and 25 December is really just arbitrary in that respect.

Over the years many other traditions have grown up around Christmas, such as Christmas trees, and Santa, but the true meaning of Christmas…..wait, I should say the original meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with three wise men and mangers, but rather with gift-giving and partying.


Christmas time is here again officially. I heard Boney M heralding in the season at the mall today. The season of reindeer, Christmas parties, presents, and general merriment.

There is another side of it though that as adults we tend to forget. Children are not as patient as adults are when having to wait for things – such as Christmas day.

Think about it. Every day, children see shops brimming full of expensive cool toys (ever notice that the cooler the toy, the more expensive it is!) and know that they have a stash of presents waiting for them under the tree, but Christmas day seems so far away when you have the latest Ben 10 action figure staring you in the face at the local store.

We had a few issues with Cole this weekend with this. He grew quite huffy when he realised he could not get a toy or computer game, even when reminded that it is less than 2 weeks to Christmas, and thanks to a generous Aunt and grandmother, he has quite a few nice goodies coming his way.

Sometimes us adults struggle to contain ourselves too, but at least for the most part, we can control ourselves…….until the day of unwrapping ;) .