With just about 3 months under our belts here in the Netherlands, we’re now at our first Dutch holiday. Sint Maarten. Almost identical to Halloween (and comes only days after we celebrated the American goodness of that holiday), we were excited to start learning more about the traditions celebrated here in our host country.
Sint Maarten is celebrated in much of Europe and in a variety of ways. No matter the country, the origin is the same. Sint Maarten is considered to be a friend of children and to the poor. Celebrated since around the 4th century, the legend that is most famous is that Sint Maarten cut his cloak in half during a snowstorm in order to help clothe a homeless man. As he died on November 11th, this is why Sint Maarten is celebrated on this evening. In older times, children and the poor would go door to door looking for food for the winter.
Here in the Netherlands it is celebrated similar to Halloween, it’s a holiday about the children. They carry their handmade lanterns (or store bought ones) door to door. They are not in costume but instead they sing a song at each home and are then given a candy treat, similar to Halloween.
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten
De koeien hebben staarten
De meisjes hebben rokjes aan
Daar komt Sint Martinus aan
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten
The cows have tails
The girls wear skirts
Sint Martinus is coming
Supposedly the boys learned some songs at school though when I asked them, they both denied it. Typical boys. But since they didn’t know the songs, I didn’t really feel comfortable throwing them to the wolves in search of candy. My plan was to kind of toss them in with a group of kids that would eventually come to our door and we would just tag along, learning as we go.
Let me back track for just a moment here. Back in the States, we always celebrated Halloween. It’s the start to the holiday season in my mind and we were always out enthusiastically trick or treating. When we first moved to Attleboro, I was sooooo excited for our first trick or treaters and bought bag upon bag of candy for our first year there, ready for the onslaught of kids that would be coming to our house.
Unfortunately we moved into our house in Attleboro on October 29th. Our street was under construction and only our house and one other was complete. Though it was the last street in a neighborhood full of homes, no one knew we were there since we’d only moved in 2 days before. We literally got one trick or treater that night much to my disappointment. The following years more than made up for it but I remember how disappointed I was that first year when only one little girl showed up at our door and that was it.
So fast forward 15 or so years to our first Sint Maarten in the Netherlands. Yup, only one group (of 2 kids) came to our door. We never got that opportunity to throw the kids out with a group of kids to enjoy the holiday. Aidan didn’t really care, but unfortunately Liam was fairly devastated by this turn of events. I’ve told him that he’s just going to have to work on his Dutch to be ready for next year…
I’m not sure if there just weren’t a lot of kids out (my babysitter said she didn’t get many either) or if it’s that many of the kids did their thing on Halloween and so the families opted to skip Sint Maarten, but I’m hoping the next holiday goes much better. Sinterklaas! More on that coming soon!