6358 EDGEMERE BLVD. EL PASO, TEXAS 79925 915-562-8525
1779 N. ZARAGOZA ST., SUITE A EL PASO, TEXAS 79936 915-855-6466
HAPPY SAINT NICHOLAS DAY! (MERRY CHRISTMAS, TOO) REMEMBERING MY FAMILY’S DUTCH HOLIDAY TRADITIONS
If you were born and raised in America, you probably grew up thinking Santa lives in the North Pole, drives a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer, and delivers presents by squeezing himself down the chimney. I’m not going to say you’re wrong , but in the Netherlands where I’m from, we were raised with a different Christmas legend: the legend of Sinterklaas. At first glance, Sinterklaas looks a bit like Santa — they’re both old men with flowing white beards, red coats, and sacks of presents — but that’s where the similarities end! Sinterklaas is actually based on Saint Nicholas of Myra, a Christian bishop born in A.D. 280 in what is now Turkey, and Dutch children are well aware of the connection. Saint Nicholas was well-known in his lifetime for his generosity, and stories abound about all the gifts and assistance he gave the poor. They spread across Europe, and soon he was beloved in the Netherlands, too. Saint Nicholas died on Dec. 6, A.D. 343 and over the centuries that followed, the people of the Netherlands made it an annual tradition to celebrate his death with a feast and other festivities — a ritual we still uphold today. The holiday is called Saint Nicholas Day, and it’s distinct from Christmas, when we celebrate the
birth of Jesus Christ. As a kid, I always thought that made good sense because it meant Jesus didn’t have to share his birthday with Sinterklaas! No one enjoys it when their birthday falls on a holiday. Instead of visiting Sinterklaas at the mall, Dutch children watch him arrive by boat at the harbor. Legend has it Sinterklaas is visiting from Spain, and he always appears on a white horse flanked by Moorish helpers and wearing an elaborate bishop’s miter. On Sinterklaas Day when I was a kid, my family celebrated in the traditional way. My mother, father, brother, sister, and I got each other a trio of gifts, including an inexpensive serious gift, a funny gag gift, and a thoughtful handwritten poem. Writing the poem was my favorite part of the holiday because poking fun at each other was fair game. Anything that had happened that year could be added to the poem, so if you did something stupid in May, it could come back to haunt you for Sinterklaas! Even better, because all of the gifts and poems were delivered in a sack at the front door by “Sinterklaas,” you never knew who had written which poem. Unlike in the U.S., where opening presents is often over by breakfast, opening our gifts one by one, reading the poems out loud, and sharing the
traditional pepernoten, speculaas, and taai taai cookies would take hours, and often a whole evening! Living in America, what I miss most about that tradition is the time, care, and thought that went into the presents, particularly in creating the poems. Sometimes it would take me weeks to write the perfect rhyme for my brother or sister, and reading them always meant a lot more than any store- bought gift would. Even though I can’t quite recreate the holidays of my youth, I still try to bring that same care to my gift-giving as an adult and business owner. In particular, my staff and I try to let the doctors who refer patients to us know we care by sending something other than the traditional gift basket of fancy fruit and cheese (which was often one of 50 gift baskets, few of which were eaten). For more than 10 years now, we’ve instead sent a bottle of wine and receipt of a donation in their name to the free clinic where they worked in medical school. I hope that assuages their worries if they don’t have time to volunteer over the holidays and means more than a few bites of expensive food! We’d love to show you how much we care, too — and not just on the holidays. Any time you book an appointment with us, we’ll pay attention to the details that matter. To see for yourself, call our office at 915-562-8525 today!
For the last five years, each holiday season Spine & Rehab Specialists has donated funds, food, coats, and blankets to the Sisters of the Queen of Peace Convent in El Paso. Our donations help feed, clothe, and shelter the homeless, and we’d love for you to join us in spreading the holiday cheer! If you’re able, please bring your contributions to the convent at 3119 Pera Avenue, or contact one of our clinics about the possibility of coordinating a joint donation. We appreciate your generosity of spirit and wish you all a Merry Christmas!
– Harry Koster • 1 915-562-8525
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