by Madeleine Kando
Like most children, I believed in Santa while I was growing up. Although I was born in Hungary, we soon moved to France, where Santa goes by the name of 'Pere Noel'. Pere Noel wasn't very generous in those days, especially when he came down a poor refugee family's chimney, in the suburbs of Paris. But I was a kid and children are happy with what they get. They only become greedy when they grow up. I often wondered how Pere Noel would react if I caught him in the act. Would he wink at me, say 'ho, ho, ho' and leave me my one present? Or would he frown, do an about face as soon as he saw me staring at him in the middle of the living room?
When my family moved to Holland, I was introduced to the Dutch version of Santa. Over there, Santa plays second fiddle to a far less benevolent character named Sinterklaas. He is a bishop-like figure with a big pointy mitre and a staff. Every 5th of December, he arrives from Spain on a steam boat, accompanied by his 'helpers', all named Zwarte Piet. These are not your run of the mill elves, they are boys with dark skin, unmistakably of the Negroid race. One of these Black Peters is saddled with the difficult choice of selecting which children have been good and which ones have been bad. Candy for the goodie-two shoes and the rod for the baddies. If a child has been particularly bad, he gets stuffed in a canvas bag and shipped back to Spain. No wonder the Dutch are so stoic. Early on they are taught to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
The Dutch Christmas Santa is pretty useless when it comes to presents and Christmas in general is a fairly boring church going affair. It's on Sinterklaas day that children put out their wooden shoes in front of the fire place and go to bed dreaming of the next day's bounty. But what about the very bad children? What could they have possibly done to deserve being beaten with a branch and kidnapped to boot?
Needless to say I was especially good around December 5th. I couldn't care less about the presents, I just wanted to avoid the fate of those very bad children at all cost.
As time went on, the image of the very bad children being shipped off to Spain, kept haunting me. Even after I moved to the States, where people don't celebrate Sinterklaas and probably never heard of him, I couldn't stop thinking about them. The worst that can happen to American children is to find their stocking full of coal, but being beaten and stuffed in a canvas bag, by a black person of all people, would not go down so smoothly over here. Zwarte Piet would find himself dangling at the end of a rope before he could count 'een, twee, drie'. That leaves the American Santa with only one option, doling out presents, which increases his workload by a huge margin. Without the help of his elves, he would have keeled over from exhaustion a long time ago.
The question remains: where does Santa find all these elves? Are they legally employed? What about when they get old? Do they get retirement benefits, or do they get tossed out on the icebergs after they spent a lifetime chiseling away at nutcrackers and toy trains? The more I thought about the elves, the more questions I had and my concern for the fate of the very bad children back in Holland was transferred to the plight of Santa's elves.
I couldn't help but see a parallel between the two. At one end, there was an endless supply of very bad children being transferred to Spain from various Northern European countries where they celebrate Sinterklaas, at the other end there was an endless demand for elves. Could there be a connection? Besides, wasn't Sinterklaas a distant relative of Santa Claus? In fact it's quite possible that Sinterklaas was Santa's Godfather! Slowly things started to make sense to me. The Sinterklaas/Santa Claus Connection was pretty obvious! I had killed two birds with one stone. The 'very bad children' WERE the elves! How did they get from Spain to the North Pole, you ask? Clearly Santa's reindeer don't sit idle 364 days a year. If they did, they would become as obese as Santa himself. Obviously they are the runners, supplying Santa with fresh elves year round.
I could just go directly to the authorities with my discovery, but I fear that I would put the elves in danger, so I wrote this story instead. I encourage you to send a message to your representative. Together we can put serious grassroots pressure on our government to outlaw the practice of foreign child labor on the North Pole, or anywhere else for that matter. This Multinational Conglomerate has to be stopped! Let's boycott Christmas presents until this issue has been resolved to the elves' satisfaction. leave comment here
Thursday, January 30, 2014
by Madeleine Kando