Sunday, December 18, 2011

When your neighbor is a celeberity

December 6 is the day of Sinterklass (Saint Nicholas) which is widely celebrated in Belgium. A lot of parties and activities for children are being thrown at this occasion.
The days before are the time when children get presents at night into their shoes. This is also a kind of unofficial opening of the Christmas season.

We went to the city for a long walk through the old neighborhood and forgot about a party we were invited to. Not so bad since it was anyway a children party. Anyway, we got "compensated" and saw St. Nicholas riding his horse back home. It turned out that the local official St. Nicholas is our neighbor whom we see from time to time riding his horses down the street.
He was led by a 'black' servant (a local with painted faces).

The same white horse and 'black' servant were stationed in the Big Market for a couple of weeks before December 6. The 'black' servant is dressed in colorful oriental-like clothing and St. Nicholas is dressed as a bishop and not...not as a fat red USA Santa.

Btw, if children misbehave, Saint Nicholas isn't forgiving. His black assistant puts the bad children in a bag and take them back to Spain from where they came.

Here is the long full version of the tradition.

In Austria, they have another tradition in which the Krampus demons or beasts make company to Saint Nicholas and they are the ones punishing misbehaving children.
Obviously, the local traditions are a bit deeper than that, and you can easily see the fact that in the dark days of December the demons are coming out, running after young girls catch and hit them and finally the great bishop is coming to vanish them away. Nowadays, the local authorities are trying to have central 'Krampus Run' events in order to make it more of a competition and less of a local and a bit violent event with too many drunk Krampuses running around.

See here some pics from the annual Krampus run in Graz, Austria.

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