Soothing Those European Racist January Blues
Elle Hartley Smith, Features Writer
The Christmas period is over. No more excuses for daytime drinking, eating so much as “it’ll soon go bad.”
Yes that’s right we’ve hit the New Years resolutions commitment.
We’re all doing so well exercising more, eating healthier, drinking less, being more eco-friendly.
But can’t you feel that dark speck in your heart? Something is missing. Something is not quite right. That’s right, I’m afraid you’re missing the festivities.
As Brits we all know how the ‘traditional’ Christmas rolls. Mince pies, carrots, brandy and or milk is left for the handsome man in the red suit and his four legged friends.
But it’s not the same in the rest of Europe.
In fact, the festivities are spread out.
In the Netherlands Sinterklaas (Sin-ta-klass or Saint Nicholas) is celebrated by the masses on the 6th December.
It's also the day that re-lights a racial issue: Sinterklaas has a helper, like an equivalent to an elf.
Sinterklaas’ helper, Zwarte Piet (or Black Pete) is known for having a black face.
People have been dressing up for years with black faces, replicating the soot on Zwarte Piet’s face.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many find this offensive, and many protest against it.
Strangely, however, this raw anger and protesting from this historical character only appears around November and December.
Sinterklaas is also known for sharing kruidnoten (krad-in-ortan), which are small crunchy all-spiced biscuits, which are occasionally covered in chocolate.
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A fine flaky pastry acts as a blanket to the almond flavoured marzipan that lies within. When baked to the perfect temperature, the treasured marzipan melts into a perfectly gooey mass of deliciousness.
It is like eating a piece of heaven - I am told.
Being a student in accommodation with no oven but just a rather uncooperative microwave oven that burns everything, this marzipan heaven is not something I have been able to test empirically.
On the 25th December itself, almost nothing happens. A few presents are exchanged and a nice dinner is had, but our favourites of pigs in blankets, turkey, stuffing and Christmas pudding are not present.
12 Spanish Grapes
In Spain, there’s a New Years tradition that, if completed correctly, brings you good luck for the forthcoming year.
In the twelve seconds before the clock strikes midnight of the last day of the year a grape is eaten every second.
The way you prepare these grapes is completely up to you. Some people skin them, others pit them, and the brave ones eat them whole. It should be noted that it is very common to have grapes with sour seeds in them in Spain, in fact seedless grapes, like we have in the UK, are rather difficult to find.
Three Kings Day
A month after Sinterklaas’ arrival, Three Kings Day occurs.
Koningsdag (in Dutch) and Día de Reyes (in Spanish) occurs on the 6th January. This is their ‘Christmas Day’.
Presents are given, greetings are exchanged. But yet again in the food department there is no special meal that is eaten by all.
From what I have heard, the majority of Europe celebrate the festivities around this time of year and in this way. It is just we ‘Westerners’ that have broken from the traditional form of celebrations.
Maybe it is time we adopt aspects from other cultures, especially the Dutch marzipan pastry roll! With the racism completely removed of course.
Consider your January blues to be cured!
Soothing Those European Racist January Blues, 25th January 2018, 9:45 AM