Oct 31, 2012

St Martin's treat

GABROEN never went trick n treating in their childhood, because there was no such thing as All Hallow's Eve in Holland. In the more roman catholic South of the country, where Gabri grew up, there was some celebration of All Hallows/Saints and All Souls on November 1st and 2nd, although nothing as elaborate as the Day of the Dead she involved so intricately in her work over the last months (see for example the earlier posts In memoriam and Dia de los Muertos). The middle of the country, where Jeroen was born, is more hardcore protestant, so there were no such thing as saints. In that part of the world, October 31st actually is Reformation Day, to commemorate Martin Luther rebelling against all what the Roman Catholic Church stood for.

Interestingly, the North of the country has a tradition similar to Halloween on November 11. This is the feast day of St Martin of Tours, and thus called Sint Maarten in Holland; yes, the same as the Caribbean island that is half Dutch. The same Martin Luther was actually named after St. Martin, as he was baptized on November 11 way back when. So on November 11, kids in Northern Holland walk from door to door with little self-made lanterns, singing songs to collect candy.

Jip and Janneke on St Martin - from a famous Dutch children's book series
What's the song these kids sing? It may be a little shocking for politically correct American readers, but remember this comes from the country where Santa has black 'servants' rather than green elves, the country that takes pride in its bluntness. Here we go:

Sinte Maarten mik-mak
mijn moeder is een dikzak
mijn vader is een dunnetje
geef me een pepermunnetje

Which translates more or less as:

Saint Martin mac-matty
my mother is a fatty
my dad is thin like flint
now give me a peppermint

So no matter where you come from: Happy Reformation Day, St. Martin, or All Hallow's Eve!

1 comment:

  1. Oh jeugd sentiment, St Maarten en Jip en Janneke. Interesting, I was in Nepal in October and bumped into a Dutch girl on the way to basecamp, she was from Limburg. We spoke about similar things, Saint Nikolaas, St Martin and the whole kafuffle around Black Pete. I've been gone from Holland for 20 odd years but suddenly I got homesick.