Magazine article Insight on the News

'Tis the Season for Sinter Klaas, le Revellion, Sheng Dan Jieh

Magazine article Insight on the News

'Tis the Season for Sinter Klaas, le Revellion, Sheng Dan Jieh

Article excerpt

People around the world celebrate the Christmas season with a mixture of reverence and revelry, from the midnight Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris to the Holy Birth Festival in China.

For some children, Santa Claus doesn't come in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, land on a housetop and clamber down the chimney. Instead, St. Nicholas arrives by ferryboat clad in a bishop's robe and miter and delivers presents astride a snow-white horse.

This is Christmas in the Netherlands, one of many places throughout the world where holiday traditions differ from those in the United States. Still, the season is celebrated with the same combination of reverence and revelry, fun and frenzy. And while Christmas to many is synonymous with home and family, to others it's an opportunity to travel and experience the customs of other countries.

Those who visit the Netherlands find themselves in the land of Sinter Klaas, a legendary Dutch figure based upon a stately fourth-century bishop. Emigrants from Holland brought the tradition of Sinter Klaas with them to the colonies. Later, the British introduced Father Christmas - the merry, roly-poly figure we know today - who merged with Sinter Klaas and came to be known by the anglicized version of the Dutch name.

In few other places is Christmas observed with more merriment and custom than in England. Since the first celebration (in 521 at King Arthur's court, so the story goes), castles and more modest homes have resounded with feasting and merrymaking. Despite the legacy of Ebenezer Scrooge, England is the land of caroling, plum pudding and the Christmas goose. After dinner, millions of the queen's subjects gather around their televisions to hear her address the realm - a custom begun by King George V in 1932.

Across the channel, inside the towering halls of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, midnight worshipers fervently clasp their hands in prayer. But outside the cathedral's doors, the scene is far different. Parisians and visitors mingle in the square; mimes, jugglers and other sidewalk performers entertain; and restaurants lining the winding streets resonate with boisterous sounds and emit tempting aromas.

French tradition dictates attendance at midnight Mass, followed by le Revellion, a Christmas Eve supper available at many restaurants. …

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