Published on December 5th, 2012 | by Selma van Oostwaard


Happy Sinterklaasavond!

As an American ex-pat living in the Netherlands there are a number of interesting customs and practices to get used to. The Dutch are very direct people, and not shy about asking quite personal questions- an easy thing for someone who grew up in New York City (once New Amsterdam!) to deal with. The Dutch ride bicycles, and can balance three children, two bags of groceries and a crate of beer on two wheels- I personally can’t do that, but I watch it happen with admiration. Then there is the practice of Sinterklaas.

By Susi Snyder

For those of you who don’t know, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, sailors and the City of Amsterdam (among other things). St. Nicholas day is the 6th of December, but in the Netherlands Sinterklaasavond is celebrated on the 5th, and is the traditional gift giving time during winter and Christmas holidays, and are accompanied by a poem.

Inspired by our office blog-gnome, dressed today as Sinterklaas (see picture), I want to share my own Sinterklaas poem.

Sinterklaas had a thought
About a present we’d like a lot

Defence, deterrence, security strategies
With nuclear weapons lead to tragedies

A world free of nukes in sight
A basic, simple human right

The conference in Oslo we do prepare
Hundreds of activists will join us there

It will remind people of the harm
And unacceptable consequence of the bomb

The consequences would be truly horrendous
Use of the bomb would surely end us

While Ira talks about nuclear famine
Our hearts and actions still imagine

Countries begin to negotiate a ban
We’ll push for it! It’s the plan!

Will Obama earn his Nobel Prize?
Abolishing nuclear weapons before our eyes?

When Sinterklaas comes around next year
Will nuclear weapons still be here?

(With gracious thanks to Fabian van Langevelde for sparking my imagination and contributing rhymes)

About the Author

Selma supports all the disarmament work at PAX with a special emphasis on the No Nukes team. In 2014 she and other PAX disarmament campaigners launched a public campaign in the Netherlands to initiate the creation of national legislation to outlaw nuclear weapons: One of the result of this national campaign is that a vast majority of the House wants the Netherlands to start working internationally for a nuclear weapons ban.

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