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~Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or simply "Santa" is a historical, legendary and mythological character associated with bringing gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The popular North American form Santa Claus originated as a mispronunciation of Dutch Sinterklaas, which in turn is a contracted form of Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas). However, the Dutch Sinterklaas is different from Santa Claus in many ways: see the section on Dutch folklore. The Dutch word for Santa Claus is Kerstman ("Christmas man"). Santa Claus has a suit that comes in many colors depending on the country. The most common depiction (red with white sleeves, collar, and belt) became the more popular image in the United States in the mid-to-late 19th century.~
~According to the myths before the beginning of the 19th century, Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) operated by himself or in the companionship of a devil. (Having triumphed over evil, it was said that on Saint Nicholas Eve, the devil was shackled and made his slave.) A devil as a helper of the Saint can also still be found in Austrian Saint Nicholas tradition.~
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Krampus (2003 Perchtenlauf in Woelfnitz, Austria)The Companions of Saint Nicholas (or Father Christmas) are a group of closely related figures who accompany St. Nicholas in many European traditions. The tradition is particularly strong amongst the Germanic peoples, with some regional expression in the U.S. (largely from European ethnic groups).
The most recognized companion, especially outside of Europe, is Knecht Ruprecht, which translates as Farmhand Ruprecht or Servant Ruprecht. Other companions include Krampus (Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary [spelled Krampusz]), Klaubauf (Bavaria), Bartel (Styria), Pelzebock, Pelznickel, Belzeniggl, Belsnickel (Pennsylvania), Schmutzli (Switzerland), Rumpelklas, Bellzebub, Hans Muff, Drapp or Buzebergt (Augsburg), Hanstrapp (Alsace, East of France) and Le Père Fouettard (Northern France). In the Czech Republic, St. Nicholas or Svatý Mikuláš is accompanied by the Cert (Devil) and Andel (Angel). These servants are often associated with, but are distinct from Saint Nicholas' helpers in the Netherlands and Flanders (called Zwarte Piet, meaning Black Pete(r) in English).
4 Popular culture
7 See also
9 External links
Often the subject of winter poems and tales, the Companions travel with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with them a rod (sometimes a stick, a mace, switchblade, scythe, revolver, a magic top hat, bundle of switches or a whip, and in modern times often a broom) and a sack. They are sometimes dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair. In many contemporary portrayals the companions look like dark, sinister, or rustic versions of Nicholas himself, with a similar costume but with a darker color scheme.
Some of the companions take on more monstrous forms, namely in Austria, Bavaria, or Hungary. Krampus and Klaubauf are variously depicted as horned, shaggy, bestial, or demonic. In many depictions the Krampus looks like popular images of the Devil, complete with red skin, cloven hooves, and short horns. They whip everyone that comes on their path.
In Hungary, the Krampusz is often portrayed as mischevious rather than evil, wearing a black suit, with a tail and little red horns that are rather funny than frightening. The Krampusz wields a Virgács, which is a bunch of twigs bound together. Parents often frighten children with getting a Virgács instead of presents, because if they do not behave, the Mikulás lets the Krampusz give them his present. By the end of November, you can buy all kinds of Virgács on the streets, usually painted gold, bound by a red ribbon. Getting a Virgács is rather fun than frightening, and is usually given along with presents to make children behave.
It is unclear whether the various companions of St. Nicholas are all expressions of a single tradition (likely Knecht Ruprecht), or a conflation of multiple traditions. Various texts, especially those outside the tradition, often treat the companions as variations on a single Knecht Ruprecht tradition.
Traditionally, Knecht Ruprecht would sometimes be portrayed as being Black African, like Zwarte Piet in the Benelux. However, over recent decades this became regarded as offensive by some as Zwarte Piet as the silly helper of Sinterklaas. So, the black on his face is sometimes explained as soot collected as he descends into chimneys.
Knecht Ruprecht is commonly cited as a servant and helper, and is sometimes associated with Saint Rupert. According to some stories, Ruprecht began as a farmhand; in others, he is a wild foundling whom St. Nicholas raises from childhood. Ruprecht sometimes walks with a limp, because of a childhood injury. Often, his black clothes and dirty face are attributed to the soot he collects as he goes down chimneys.
The companion of the French St. Nicholas, Père Fouettard, is said to be the butcher of three children. St. Nicholas discovered the murder and resurrected the three children. He also shamed Père Fouettard, who, in repentance, became a servant of St. Nicholas. Fouettard travels with the saint and punishes naughty children by whipping them. In modern times he distributes small whips, instead of thrashings, or gifts.
In some of the Ruprecht traditions the children would be summoned to the door to perform tricks, such as a dance or singing a song to impress upon Santa and Ruprecht that they were indeed good children. Those who performed badly would be beaten soundly by Servant Ruprecht, and those who performed well were given a gift or some treats. Those who performed badly enough or had committed other misdeeds throughout the year were put into Ruprecht's sack and taken away, variously to Ruprecht’s home in the Black Forest, or to be tossed into a river. In other versions the children must be asleep, and would either awake to find their shoes filled with sweets, coal, or in some cases a stick. Over time, other customs developed: parents giving kids who misbehaved a stick instead of treats and saying that it was a warning from Nikolaus that "unless you improve by Christmas day, Nikolaus' black servant Ruprecht will come and beat you with the stick and you won't get any Christmas gifts." Often there would be variations idiosyncratic to individual families.
In parts of Austria, Krampusse, who by local tradition were typically children of poor families, roamed the streets and sledding hills during the festival. They wore black rags and masks, dragging chains behind them, and occasionally hurling them towards children in their way. These Krampusumzüge (Krampus runs) still exist, although perhaps less violent than in the past.
Today, Schladming, a town in Styria, over 1200 "Krampus" gather from all over Austria wearing goat-hair costumes and carved masks, carrying bundles of sticks used as switches, and swinging cowbells to warn of their approach. They are typically young men in their teens and early twenties and are generally intoxicated. They roam the streets of this typically quiet town and hit people with their switches. It is not considered wise for young women to go out on this night, as they are popular targets.
In parts of the United States in the 19th century, "Pelznickel" traditions were maintained for a time among immigrants at least as far west as the US state of Indiana. In this branch of the tradition, the father or other older male relative was often "busy working outside" or had to see to some matter elsewhere in the house when Pelznickel arrived. Today, remnants of this tradition remain, known as the Belsnickel, especially in Pennsylvania.
A first-hand 19th Century account of the "Beltznickle" tradition in Allegany County, Maryland, can be found in Brown's Miscellaneous Writings, a collection of essays by Jacob Brown (born 1824). Apparently writing of the 1820s/1830s period, Brown says, "we did not hear of" Santa Claus. Instead, the tradition called for an actual visit by a different character altogether. According to Brown, "[h]e was known as Kriskinkle, Beltznickle and sometimes as the Xmas woman. Children then not only saw the mysterious person, but felt him or rather his stripes upon their backs with his switch. The annual visitor would make his appearance some hours after dark, thoroughly disguised, especially the face, which would sometimes be covered with a hideously ugly phiz - generally wore a female garb - hence the name Christmas woman - sometimes it would be a veritable woman but with masculine force and action. He or she would be equipped with an ample sack about the shoulders filled with cakes, nuts, and fruits, and a long hazel switch which was supposed to have some kind of a charm in it as well as a sting. One would scatter the goodies upon the floor, and then the scramble would begin by the delighted children, and the other hand would ply the switch upon the backs of the excited youngsters - who would not show a wince, but had it been parental discipline there would have been screams to reach a long distance."
In many parts of Croatia, Krampus is described as a devil, wearing chains around his neck, ankles and wrists, and wearing a cloth sack around his waist. As a part of a tradition, when a child receives a gift from St. Nicolas he is given a golden branch to represent his/hers good deeds throughout the year; however, if the child has misbehaved, Krampus will take the gifts for himself and leave only a silver branch to represent the child's bad acts. Children are commonly scared into sleeping during the time St. Nicolas brings gifts by being told that if they are awake, Krampus will think they have been bad, and will take them away in his sack.
- Popular culture
The Krampus was also featured on the television cartoon series The Venture Bros. In a short Christmas episode, the Krampus is accidentally released from a book of ancient occult magic and wreaks havoc on Dr. Venture's Christmas party, attempting to sodomize the Doctor before getting into a rather violent brawl with Brock Samson. The demon is soothed by the coming of Christmas at the stroke of midnight, but unwittingly detonates a bomb hidden under a small nativity scene set while exiting. At the end of the episode this is all revealed to have been an hallucination by Dr. Venture, brought on by a head injury incurred when the Venture jet crashed - in Bethlehem.
In the arcade game CarnEvil, the boss for the "Rickety Town" level is named Krampus. He resembles a large, horned, clawed, demonic Santa Claus clad in green, and attacks by hurling flaming coals and swinging his bag at the player.
The Krampus is mentioned in the webcomic Something Positive by Randy Milholland
G4 (TV channel) created a Christmas commercial featuring Krampus. In it some carolers sing about Krampus while he enters a house putting the bad children in his sack.
A Character named Banjo in the graphic novel Chickenhare is a Krampus.
The Christmas episode of the scifi series, Supernatural, upcoming third season will feature the Krampus as a demonic 'anti-Santa', who comes at night to punish children who have been naughty.
On the 2007 album by indie band Sunset Rubdown titled Random Spirit Lover, a picture of the Krampus is featured on the back of the cover.
I came out of the forest there
I must tell you Christmas feeling is in the air
All around on pine tree tops
A little golden light was propped
And overhead at heaven’s gates
My wide eyes saw the Christ child wait
And as I passed through the dark pines
I cried out with that clear voice of mine
“Santa’s evil elf, old thing
Take to your legs, quick, hurrying!”
“Yes, yes, I must go into town
Where there are children brave and loud!
“Do you have your little sack to see?”
“Yes, yes, my little sack is here with me!
For apple nuts and almond meat
Brave children like to eat!
Translated  excerpt from 'Nikolausgedichte' by Theodor Storm.
Müller, Felix / Müller, Ulrich: Percht und Krampus, Kramperl und Schiach-Perchten. In: Müller, Ulrich / Wunderlich, Werner (Hrsg.): Mittelalter-Mythen 2. Dämonen-Monster-Fabelwesen. St. Gallen 1999, S. 449 - 460.
Laity, K. A.: When Little Joe the Krampus Met. Wombat's World Publishing, 2003.
- See also
Paganism in the Eastern Alps
Hardrock, Coco and Joe
Santa Claus's reindeer
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
^ Jacob Brown, Brown's Miscellaneous Writings, Printed by J.J. Miller (Cumberland, Maryland 1896), page 41.
- External links
Felix und Ulrich Müller - Percht und Krampus, Kramperl und Schiach-Perchten: Scientific text on the tradition of Krampus in the region of Salzburg - includes a lively description of the fascination of being a Krampus - text written in 1997 and published in 1999
Dutch-language web site devoted to all things Zwarte Piet. Even for the non Dutch speaker, the photos may be of interest.
Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Companions_of_Saint_Nicholas "
Categories: All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements since September 2007 | Christmas characters | Folk saints | Santa's helpers
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This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.
Please improve the article by adding references. See the talk page for details. (September 2007)
Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten helpers arrive in the town of Sneek on November 12th 2005Sinterklaas (also called Sint-Nicolaas in Dutch (pronunciation (help·info)) and Saint Nicolas in French) is a holiday tradition in the Netherlands and Belgium, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve (December 5) or, in Belgium, on the morning of December 6. The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children.
It is also celebrated to a lesser extent in parts of France (North, Alsace, Lorraine), as well as in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Romania and the Czech Republic. The traditions differ from country to country, even between Belgium and the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas' Eve, (December 5) is the chief occasion for gift-giving. The evening is called pakjesavond ("presents' evening"). Traditionally, presents are ingeniously wrapped, and are therefore called surprises. Also, presents are traditionally accompanied by a poem from Saint Nicholas.
Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus who later was 're-designed' to match a cola company's needs in the 20th Century. It was during the American War of Independence, that the Roman-Catholic inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town (New Amsterdam) which had been swapped by the Dutch for other territories, reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, who was regarded as an alternative for the "Irish Catholic" Saint Patrick. The name Santa Claus is derived from older Dutch Sinte Klaas.
2 Zwarte Piet
6 Sinterklaas in different countries
8 See also
A chocolate letter, typical Sinterklaas candyThe Sinterklaas feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas (280-342), patron saint of children. Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey and became the patron saint of children based on various legends that include resurrecting children from death and saving them from prostitution.
Sinterklaas has a long white beard, wears a red bishop's dress and red mitre (bishop's hat), and holds a crosier, a long gold coloured staff with a fancy curled top. Sinterklaas carries a big book with all the children's names in it, which states whether they have been good or naughty (zoet of stout) in the past year.
He also rides a white horse (Schimmel-meaning "white horse") called Amerigo over the rooftops. In Flanders (Belgium) the horse is sometimes called "Slecht Weer Vandaag", meaning "Bad Weather Today". This name is of recent creation and was introduced by the VRT television series "Dag Sinterklaas" written by Hugo Mathyssen (1993). In the series Bart Peeters visits Sinterklaas (Jan Decleir) in his castle and finds out that Sinterklaas had gotten a new horse and couldn't think of a name. When Zwarte Piet (Frans Van der Aa) entered Sinterklaas' winter castle, Sinterklaas immediately asked if Zwarte Piet knew a name. Not having heard the question, Zwarte Piet said "Slecht Weer Vandaag", commenting on the weather. Sinterklaas thought Zwarte Piet was actually naming the horse, and the name stuck.
- Zwarte Piet
Main article: Zwarte Piet
Zwarte PietSinterklaas is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful outfits, modelled after 16th century Spanish clothing. These helpers are called Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) in Dutch (see below for names in other languages). During the Middle Ages, Zwarte Piet was a name for the devil. Having triumphed over evil, it was said that on Saint Nicholas' eve, the devil was shackled and made his slave. Although the character of Black Pete later came to acquire racial connotations, his origins were in the devil figure. This racialisation is reflected in the reworking of the characters' mythos. From about 1850, Pete was said to be an imported African servant of Saint Nicholas. Today however, a more politically correct explanation is given: Pete's face is said to be "black from soot" (as Pete has to climb down chimneys to deliver his gifts). Nevertheless, the tradition has been accused of being racist, and attempts have been made to introduce Gekleurde Pieten (Coloured Petes), who are coloured blue, red, etc., instead of black. This phenomenon of "Coloured Petes" was introduced nationally in 2006. The explanation given for this was that "Sinterklaas passed through a rainbow with his boat".
Traditionally Saint Nicholas only had one helper, whose name varied wildly. "Piet" or "Pieter", the name in use now, can be traced back to a book from 1891. The idea that Sinterklaas has not one but many helpers was introduced by Canadian soldiers who had liberated the Netherlands during World War II and helped organise the first post-war Sinterklaas celebration.
In other regions where Sinterklaas is celebrated, like southern Belgium or Northern France, Saint Nicholas has different companions.
Kruidnoten, small, round ginger bread-like cookiesSinterklaas traditionally arrives each year in November by steamboat from Spain, and is then paraded through the streets, welcomed by cheering and singing children. Invariably, this event is broadcast live on national television in the Netherlands and Belgium. His Zwarte Piet helpers throw candy and small, round ginger bread-like cookies, kruidnoten or pepernoten, into the crowd. The children welcome him by singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. Sinterklaas also visits schools, hospitals and shopping centres. After this arrival all towns with a dock have their own intocht van Sinterklaas (arrival of Sinterklaas)
Traditionally, in the weeks between his arrival and the 5th of December, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the chimney of the coal fired stove or fireplace, with a carrot or some hay in it "for Sinterklaas's horse", sing a Sinterklaas song, and will find some candy in their shoes the next day, supposedly thrown down the chimney by a Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas himself. However, with the advent of central heating children put their shoes near the boiler or even just next to the front door.
Typical Sinterklaas candy is the first letter of the child's name made out of chocolate, chocolate coins, a figurine of Sinterklaas made out of chocolate and wrapped in painted aluminium foil, and coloured marzipan shaped into fruit, an animal or some other object.
Children are told that Black Pete enters the house through the chimney, which also explains his black face and hands, and would leave a bundle of sticks (roe) or a small bag with salt in the shoe instead of candy when the child had been bad.
Children are also told that in the worst case they would be put in the gunny sack in which Black Pete carries the presents, and be taken back to Spain, where Sinterklaas is said to spend the rest of the year. This practice however has been condemned by Sinterklaas in his more recent television appearances as something of the past. Typical of that time was also the fact that the saint would have the names of every child written down in either his "golden book" (if a child had been good), or his "black book" (if a child had been bad) - very much like the Wodan's ravens reporting everything in the world to him. The standard joke would be that initially Sinterklaas would not be able to find the name in the "golden book", trying to scare the children. With modern views on child psychology, these practises have been abandoned as well.
Traditionally Saint Nicholas brings his gifts at night, and Belgian and many Dutch children still find their presents on the morning of December 6th. Later in The Netherlands adults started to give each other presents on the evening of the 5th; then older children were included and today in that country sometimes even the youngest on the evening of December 5 (Saint Nicholas' eve), known as Sinterklaasavond or Pakjesavond (present evening). After the singing of traditional Sinterklaas songs, there will be a loud knock on the door, and a sack full of presents is found on the doorstep. Alternatively - some improvisation is often called for - the parents 'hear a sound coming from the attic' and then the bag with presents is "found" there. Some parents manage to "convince" Sinterklaas to come to their home personally.
Presents are often accompanied by a simple poem, saying something about the child or with a hint to the nature of the present.
When the presents are too bulky in size or when the quantity of presents is too large, they have to be snuck into the house while the kids are distracted.
Another aspect of "pakjesavond" are the small poems people make. When children become too old to believe in Sinterklaas, they will be introduced to a different form of entertainment during this night. People will write small personal poems for friends and family usually accompanied by a small gift or candy. This way it is also entertaining for parents and other adults. Students usually write teasing and embarrassing stories for each other. But this is expected and are received in good spirit.
- Sinterklaas in different countries
country saint helper tradition
The Netherlands Sinterklaas, de Sint Zwarte Piet Spain
Flanders (Belgium) Sinterklaas, de Sint Zwarte Piet Spain
Wallonie (Belgium) Saint Nicolas Père Fouettard
Luxembourg Kleeschen Houseker comes from heaven, not from Spain
Alsace (France) Saint Nicolas Hanstrapp or Rupelz
Lorraine (France) Saint Nicolas Père Fouettard
Germany Nikolaus Knecht Ruprecht comes from heaven on a sledge
Austria Krampus or Schab
Switzerland Samichlaus Schmutzli comes from the Black Forest (Schwarzwald)
Poland Swiety Mikolaj
Romania Mo? Nicolae
Hungary Mikulás Krampusz
^ Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Santa Claus
- See also
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Culture of the Netherlands
Culture of Belgium
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Categories: Articles that may contain original research since September 2007 | All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements since December 2007 | Articles with unsourced statements since February 2007 | Dutch mythology | Belgian culture | Dutch culture | Winter holidays | December observances | Santa Claus | Dutch words and phrases
~Comparison of Sinterklaas and Santa Claus
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Though the figure of Santa Claus, and his role during Christmas, is largely based on the Dutch Sinterklaas, there are a number of differences and similarities between the two. This article will try to explain these.
4 Place of Residence
7 Knowledge of each other
One of the most obvious differences between Sinterklaas and Santa Claus in the way they choose to travel. Santa (together with his helpers) uses a reindeer-drawn sleigh, which, due to the magical reindeer that pull it, is able to fly through the air. Sinterklaas comes to the Low Countries on a steamer, called Pakjesboot 12. When arrived he travels on his horse, a Gray called Americo (or Slechtweervandaag in Flanders), while his helpers walk. The horse however possesses magical powers, as it is able to walk over rooftops and make great leaps trough the air.
Both Santa and Sinterklaas make use of helpers. Elves assist Santa Claus, while Zwarte Pieten help Sinterklaas. While Santa appears to make all the presents himself, his house is often represented as a toy factory. Sinterklaas on the other hand says he buys the presents in stores, which he can do due to being unimaginably wealthy, and then lets the Pieten wrap them.
Santa only deposits gifts between Christmas eve and Christmas morning, though he can be seen in the weeks before Christmas. Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands and Belgium some weeks before the 5th of December; His arrival is always broadcast on national television. During this period, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the chimney of the coal stove or fireplace, with a carrot or some hay in it "for Sinterklaas's horse", sing a Sinterklaas song, and will find some candy in their shoes the next day, supposedly thrown down the chimney by a Zwarte Piet.
Both Santa Claus and Sinterklaas deliver their presents through the chimney. Santa uses "a little bit of magic" as he himself goes down the chimney, while Sinterklaas waits on top of the roof with his horse, while his Zwarte Pieten go down.
Both figures use fixed positions as to where the presents need to be placed. Santa places his around the Christmas tree and fills the stockings hanging above the fireplace. Sinterklaas exclusively places the gifts in front of the fireplace, and, instead of stockings, he fills shoes (which the children placed before the fireplace the night before) with candy.
The Feast of Saint Nicholas, painted c. 1665 – 1668, is a painting by Dutch master Jan Steen. The picture, painted in the chaotic Jan Steen "style," depicts a family at home on December 6, the night celebrated in the Netherlands as the Feast of Saint Nicholas.Sinterklaas is used more often as a fear tactic by parents in order to get children to behave. Many Sinterklaas songs incorporate one basic element: Children who've been good will receive presents and candy, the ones who haven't will receive nothing, will be beaten (often with small branches) by the Zwarte Pieten, or in the most extreme cases will be taken to Spain, and will have to serve Santa as a slave, and will become a Zwarte Piet. Santa also cares whether children have been "naughty or nice". Santa has been known to leave only coal to those who are naughty although on the whole he's fairly lenient.
- Place of Residence
While Santa Claus is said to live on or near the North Pole together with his helpers, Sinterklaas lives in an unspecified (but likely Southern) castle in Spain. Sinterklaas and Santa Claus both spend most of their days preparing for Christmas. In this, Sinterklaas assumes the role of a more administrative figure, while his helpers do much of the packaging and manual labour as opposed to Santa Claus who is often depicted as doing both jobs, but also together with his helpers.
Sinterklaas does not have any shown or spoken about relatives. Santa however, is sometimes depicted as having a wife: Mrs. Claus. The reason why Sinterklaas has no wife or children is likely caused by the fact that he is largely based on Saint Nicholas, an early Christian bishop, and hence bound to celibacy.
Technically both Sinterklaas and Santa Clause are the same figure, both based on Saint Nicholas of Myra. Hence they should, in theory, be of the same age, which would be 1737 (given that Nicholas was born in 270 A.D) however, both Santa and Sinterklaas never give an explicit answer when asked their age. Santa says he stopped counting at 550, and Sinterklaas says he's simply too old to remember.
- Knowledge of each other
Santa Claus, seems to be oblivious to the existence of Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas however is aware of Santa's existence, and has said that they occasionally meet at his castle, adding that their meetings usually have several centuries in between.
While Santa is often very punctual and rarely forgets anything, Sinterklaas can appear to be almost senile at times, needing the help of his Zwarte Pieten to remind him of what he was or supposed to be doing.
^ Given the Moorish (see Moorish Spain origins of Zwarte Piet.)
^ According to http://SantaClaus.com .
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Categories: All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements since July 2007 | Christian folklore | Dutch mythology | Dutch culture | Santa Claus | Christmas characters | Comparisons
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