The chin of Sinterklaas

What were you doing on 21-12-2021 at 12.21 pm?

I got up early in the morning to be on the island on time, because there was work to be done. And yes, after hours of diligent searching my suspicions were confirmed: there it was, a piece of Saint Nicholas’ chin!

Those who do not know Saint Nicholas, this was a man who lived in the third century A.D., a remarkable man whose hobby was to burn down the temples of those who did not believe.

The temple of Artemis, for example, was razed to the ground by Saint Nicholas and his followers, according to tradition.

Why was this tyrannical cultural barbarian made a children’s friend from Spain by a school teacher 1600 years later?

And why did he dress up in the colours of the innkeeper’s chair?

On the small island there are no less than 5 churches next to each other, and nowhere is there anything to find out why someone would build 5 churches next to each other on a tiny island.

Well, we have a suspicion. Those whose hobby it is to burn down dissidents will also do so on their own island, and the followers of St. Nicholas have of course followed his example in the following centuries and always built churches and angrily set them on fire again when heretics were thought to be present.

This is how this strange island full of church skeletons came into being. So I sat musing with the chin of St Nicholas in my hands. I then had a good look at the rest of Saint Nicholas’ skeleton and together with Veer I started to investigate the island ethnobotanically.

We found tulip bulbs that were up to 20 years old and an awful lot of Friar’s Cowl – Arisarum Vulgare. Everything points to a culture of celebration, fire and burning.

That St. Nicholas later became a kind of wandering bogeyman through the winter in the Krampus tradition is quite understandable. A bogeyman with little devils who come to punish children who think differently.

That the schoolteachers who govern the Netherlands then turned this into a children’s friend and these little devils into black angels is…eh…well. Raarrrrrr.

However, I have collected petrified droppings from the undoubtedly evil rabbit of St Nicholas to use in magic potions.

I have ritually buried Saint Nicholas’ chin again. I came for the droppings, not for a chin. And so I managed to turn a magical number into an important day again. What were you doing on 21-12-2021 at 12.21?

Martijn Benders has published twenty-six books, eighteen of which are in Dutch. He has been named one of the greatest talents of his time by critics like Komrij and Gerbrandy. He has also written three philosophical works, one of which is in English about the Amanita Muscaria, the Fly Agaric. Publishing on the international stage of The Philosophical Salon, he has also gained international recognition as one of the most remarkable thinkers from the Netherlands.