November 11 is Sint Maarten!

November 11. In the evening children (with their parents preferably) go door to door with a lantern and get candy in exchange for singing Sint Maarten songs. The feast has gained popularity in the Netherlands. In the previous century it wasn’t celebrated everywhere, but somehow it did find it’s way to Almere quite early on. It’s the name day of Utrecht’s Patron Saint Martinus van Tours, and the origin is purely speculation.

When I was younger we’d make containers or bags and lanterns at school from glass pots or milk cartons and a candle would be lit when we would take our home made lantern door to door. We’d sing cute songs and really made an effort. In the 80’s we would still get unpackaged candy or hands full of pepernoten or a mandarin or a little pack of raisins. On other occasions actually a few pennies.

candy
Sint Maarten Candy!

Eventually it changed to paper lanterns from the store, battery operated lights and packaged candy. People became ever so health and safety conscious. Also people became overly generous and even started giving away whole candy bars. Nowadays you see that the loot consist of mostly mini candy bars. Which are conveniently always on sale in supermarkets around that time of year. But kids do tend to gather quite a lot of snacks.

I started noticing a decline in cuteness when kids came at my door. Kids, waaaay too old for it, screaming a speed core version with shady lyrics of what might have once been a cute Sint Maarten song. I decided to not hand out any more stuff to older kids that do not sing properly. Also, one year I thought I’d delay their (over)eating pleasure by handing out those yet to be frozen popsicles…

The last couple of years, because of the cuteness decline, lots of people lost their willingness to hand out candy. Also, poverty could be a reason that some people tend not to be able to hand out candy at their door. Children growing up in these poverty stricken homes will have the time of their lives going door to door to collect candy. A great opportunity.

Generally people who do not want to participate disconnect their door bell, close their curtains and turn off the lights. Or they just plan a night out to avoid the stream of children all together.

halloween-image
Sint Maarten has taken on some Halloween traditions

On the other end of the spectrum there are some people who go all out for the kids.. Halloween style! Like in de Bouwmeesterbuurt in Almere Buiten, where a teenager annually dressed up as a masked, scary, bloody butcher wielding a working chainsaw (without the chain, rigged for safety). Lots of kids loved it, but because of several parents complaining it was too scary for little kids (some who were afraid to walk anywhere near that house) he had to end his beautiful tradition last year. But the Halloween aspect is increasingly creeping into the tradition of Sint Maarten, with decorations near doors and off course there is the obvious similarity with the-going-door-to-door-to-get-candy thing.

I’ve been thinking of not buying candy this year but maybe giving out pencils or another tiny gift that endorses creativity… or something. What will you be handing out for Sint Maarten? – Petra

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