Sinterklaas Kapoentje

Sinterklaas Intocht 2009 - Stoomboot in All its Glory

“It’s Sinterklaas weather.”

It’s a reference to a December 5th holiday in the Netherlands. But the first time I remember hearing this phrase was actually in the month of August, in Amsterdam. It was a joke. But any cool, wet, gray-skied day feels like “Sinterklaas weather.” Amsterdam is capable of such weather almost any time of the year. But especially late November.

And that’s the kind of weather we’ve settled into this week. It prompts a sense of melancholy, but also some nostalgia. Particularly when it comes to remembering Sinterklaas celebrations.

Marci and I started singing some Sinterklaas songs to Cor before school this morning. We translated as we sang. And while none of the songs contained the kind of lyrical depth that could be characterized as inspirational, we came across one that was particularly silly in its superficiality: Sinterklaas Kapoentje.

Here’s our translation:

Sinterklaas, the little capuchin monk,
Throw something in my little shoe.
Throw something in my little boot.
Thank you, little Sinterklaas!

That’s it. That’s the whole song! We actually had to look up one word, ourselves: Kapoentje. I had always assumed it had something to do with Sinterklaas’s cape or hat — but it actually refers to the Catholic order of monks whose name is also invoked in the espresso beverage we call a cappuccino. But aside from that translation quirk, the main thing that strikes me from this song is how short and meaningless it is.

Sinterklaas will always hold a special place in our family’s hearts because of the role the holiday played in Elliot’s, Olivia’s, and Cor’s childhoods. But looking at it now, from afar, it seems to be all of the things that I dislike about Christmas — the self-centered commercialism and gluttony, the dark days of November — with none of the deeper spiritual significance.

But at least it’s entertaining to notice the weird stuff that goes along with the season.

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