Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sint Maarten in the park

At the end of dinner tonight I hear my daughter humming. The tune is a Dutch children's song. I smile. She learned it back in Toronto but it's in her head because we'd been to the Sint Maarten parade in Vondelpark last night.

The parade is a casual procession of children carrying lanterns behind a band around the park. The lanterns are as varied as the people. We saw ones made of leaves, ones that looked like gnome house mushrooms, ones made from recycled milk jugs and even the older traditional jack-o-lanterns carried by a rope handle or in a arms.

The band played children's songs like the one my daughter was later humming, Het Matroosje, and jazzy (sometimes even a little raggy) tunes guided by two tall lanterns. The music was great, the mood serene as a huge mass of people walked in the lantern light with their kids, and sometimes their bikes too.

Later in an Italian restaurant we laughed as a bunch of kids came joyously through the door singing loudly, lanterns swinging expecting candy for their tune. Although the candy collecting is not part of the walk it is part of the door to door singing part of the evening's traditions. (Although usually done at the doors of peoples homes) The waiter, a non-dutch speaking Italian with a smattering of English, was quite ruffled by it and clearly did not have a clue why they were doing what they were doing. A group of American parents and their little kids who seemed to also have been at the parade and were sitting near where he was standing explained the custom in English and the need to give them candy for their efforts. He hastily grabbed the mints by the cash and doled them out as quick as he could, so very funny the whole restaurant enjoyed the spectacle.

Our ride home was a leisurely  bike ride down quite main streets with the kids perched on our back racks tired and full, holding their lanterns. My son looks forward to next year when he will know enough of the songs that he too can go door to door for candy.

I can't wait to hear him sing for it.

Grootjes from Amsterdam,

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