|An Orange Excursion||
Though it shall be weird that I won't be spending my usual morning (3am-9am-ish) after Thanksgiving out bargain hunting and wrecking into donut shop signs, and of course, still be angry at people for putting up Christmas decorations so early, I don't have to go through that trouble here. Christmas decorations have been up solidly for about two weeks, though by American terms this is slightly troubling, as I would wonder if there are some Xmasophiles in the neighborhood. However, the Dutch "santa claus" is already in town, setting up shop, renting space, and filing the correct non-profit tax forms for his big giveaway and travels on December 5th. Yes people, Sinterklas is in town, and yes,he has all the kids excited and the kruidnoten en pepernoten spread around.
So at approximately 12 on Sunday he came. He came via boat, the Spanje, as the saying goes he sails in from Spain, and I said to my Spanish friend sitting next to me, "You know that your ancestors' expansive, imperialistic policies of the 16th Century are greatly allowing the Dutch people here to have a great time." Point noted. So he got off and spent some time perusing the Scheepvaart Museum which, I must say, would of been a great time to be an unexpecting tourist who gets a face full of a bearded man in a red robe. (I could of sworn it was still November?!). Seeing the sheer awe struck in the little kids' faces was great, they were all smiling, all yelling, and all decked out in their Zwarte Piet and ecclesiastical headgear. Then, about an hour and some crazy bass/techno Dutch beats later, the official parade came by. It had tractors, cookies, screaming kids, bands, people pretending to be helpers/slaves/Africans/chimney climbers/racists/Pieten depending on your ideological and anthropological viewpoint. These people wear satiny looking outfits from the 16th century with their faces blackened. They handed out the gingery kruidnoten and anise-flavored pepernoten by the bag full. All the kids just sat there with their hands out screaming," Piet!!!Piet!!! Kandij Piet!!!" And of course, the "Piet" would come on by with either a bag or butterfly net full of noten or candy to plop into their hands.
(To the left is a Pieten Band). These guys are everywhere and on everything. Bikes, bikes with 2 different sized wheels, wheelchairs, boats, mopeds, skates, carriages, horses, smartcars, firetrucks, their own feet, its like a caravan of nonstop helpers. Instead of the secretive, "north pole" style of our Santa, Sinterklas runs a pretty transparent operation in the stylish and warm vacation haven of Spain. He personally comes and scouts out the locale early to plan the most efficient routes, and with an ever-changing city, its helpful to be here early. Our guy comes once, spending no pre-planning time, and has a base of operations in the far-removed non-Schengen region of the North Pole.....Santa needs to sit in on a holiday idol lecture. Well anyways, after a parade that left the streets littered with Sinterklas vlaggen and all sorts of crushed cookies, though a lot made it into the mouths of hungry kids....I may or may not of had a few off the A'dam streets.....After this it was off to hear Sinterklas en Co. in Dam Square where it was a Pietfeest, full of blackened faces and Dutch Sinterklas songs that I just couldn't grasp. Everyone would be just standing around, talking, staring, and all of a sudden this music would come on and everyone would start bobbing up and down or waiving their hands for a short time. It was random holiday Dutch dancing, and my western Atlantic mind just couldn't quite get it. After some songs, some Piet dancing, and a speech by the burgermeester it was back to showing off Sinterklas's highly efficient and Pieten parade. (Unfortunately I could not at all capture any of this, as my camera decided to lose power, where's this wireless charging we've been promised?).
All the lights are up. Every street has its own theme. For the Dappermarkt it has wreaths and its own name, for Albert Cuypmarkt its diamond shaped icicles, the Kalverstraat has its presents and swirly wintry whisps, and the Negen straatjes has, well, a nine and a blue rectangle. Not winning any creativity awards there, but they're too the point, and I respect that. Typically it severely annoys me when people put up anything resembling holiday lights before December 1. But here is nice, especially on the straatjes down on Berenstraat and Nieuwespiegelstraat. They look gorgeous, and look like its raining artificial light from the middle of the streets. It brightens everything up, and is really itching at me to bring out the "I'll be Home for Christmas" by Sinatra (my favorite Christmas song, and coincidentally true). Taken out of the Christmasy context, the lights are very nice, and definitely make the whole Kalverstraat-toeristen things a little more bearable.