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Sing your song!
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Arno
On November 11th part of The Netherlands celebrates Sint Maarten. Sint Maarten is just like what Americans think of as Halloween, except that instead of scary things things are not scary at all, and people wear no costumes, and instead of saying "Trick or treat!" the kids sing one of a variaty of Sint Maarten songs. And they carry lampoons, often selfmade at school. And it's in November, not October. But other than that the procedure should be familiar: you go out, half the time it rains on you, you always hit the street where nobody's home and there's always some friendly aduly handing out tangerines because they are good for you. Then your parents take away the 'suspect' candy (suspiciously never to be seen again), and what's left will send you into sugar shock.

Beedoo! and I went to my parents' house for Sint Maarten, since our condo has no hope of ever attracting a single Sint Maartener. Besides, this year was the first year my niece Lois went, and of course she would go to grandpa and grandma accross the street! She is nearly two years old now, so the whole thing was a big new ball of events to her. I hear she greatly enjoyed it. She was part of a group of kids from the streets who are always so kind to her - I am really happy that she has this group of kids around her. When my twin sister and I grew up there was really only one other kid in the street, and he was almost exactly our age!

Lois sang her song very cutely, only singing the last word of each sentence and leaving out the last one. After she got her candy she noticed one of the kids had a selfmade lampoon that looked like a cow. "Boe!" she called out repeatedly. "Boe!" (which means "Moo" in English).

Not all parts of the country have this tradition. In the very deprived and culturally barren southern parts they do no such thing, and Sint Maarten to them is just some weird local custom - one of my colleagues thought I was joking when I said I'd go home early for it! They miss out. However, I notice that Sint Maarten is looking to be threatened by an imported Halloween in the future, as the cobwebs and spiders are very slowly seeping into our country. Still, I can't imagine the first day a grown-up will open the door for a bunch of trick-or-treaters in October!

Note the pig lantern in the picture above: Beedoo!'s nod to the cow incident. The song Beedoo! is singing goes thusly:

Sint Maarten, Sint Maarten,
De koeien hebben staarten,
De meisjes hebben rokjes aan,
Daar komt Sintermaarten aan.

Next up: Sinterklaas! Our saints are way better than yours, Americans!


Beedoo!
Arno seems to think I would have a lot to add to this entry, but I tink he's covered most of it. I think the kids here have it harder than for Halloween--which Arno expressed an interest in seeing in Flagstaff someday--they don't get to dress in costumes, and even if they did, by this time of the year, it's often too cold for that sort of thing. Most of the Sint Maartiners we saw were wearing their winter coats, even though it was a nice, mild evening. Plus, with halloween, you aren't expected to perform a song at each door.

It was a great evening to be out Sint Maartening. The weather was warm during the day, so not bad at night (warmer than the nights we're getting now, which are marked by very cold clouds of mist), it was a Friday night, so kids weren't expected in early to go to school the next day, and there was a lovely clear sky with a bright full moon out.

After Lois's visit to Oma and Opa's house, Joke had a couple more groups of kids, and then decided, "Well, that's probably all," so we could go home, but we passed gaggle after gaggle of kids-- we'd left just as things were getting started! Joke called while we were watching The Voice of Holland later (the American version is just called "The Voice," but Holland's came first and the concept was sold to other countries after its success here) to say that she'd had many more kids at her door after we left.

Kayenta also got a couple of comments that she had a lampoonetje. We let them remain under the impression that we of course did this on purpose for Sint Maarten. Our Sint Maart-hond didn't mind the extra attention... but we figured she wouldn't get any dog biscuits going door to door.

And for those wondering what those lyrics mean, it's "Saint Maarten, Saint Maarten, the cows have tails, the girls have skirts on, there comes Saint Maarten." If you're being obnoxious, you sing that the girls have tails and the cows have skirts on. Arno noted a wider variety of Sint Maarten songs than he remembered as we passed the groups of singing kids, and we even heard a different varient of the above song, but couldn't make out what the different lyrics were.



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