Sinterklaas moderniseert: traditiegetrouw vol verandering
: De viering van het ongeorganiseerde sinterklaasfeest in Leeuwarden, Groningen, Hoorn en regio’s de Friese Wouden, het Hogeland, het Oldambt en West-Friesland in de periode 1875-1950

Translated title of the thesis: Saint Nicholas modernizes: traditionally full of change: The celebration of the unorganized feast of Saint Nicholas in Leeuwarden, Groningen, Hoorn and regions the Friese Wouden, Hogeland, Oldambt and West-Friesland between 1875 and 1950
  • A. Bonnet-bekkema

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    he purpose of this study was to examine the development of the unorganized, domestic feast of Saint Nicholas in the Dutch cities of Leeuwarden, Groningen and Hoorn and the nearby regions of the Friese Wouden, Hogeland, Oldambt and West-Friesland between 1875 and 1950. From the perspective of modernization, the goal was to identify which processes were accountable for the spread of the domestic celebration and the disappearance of other activities that were generally celebrated at the fifth of December, like participating in lotteries and Nicholas masquerades. This study also aimed to provide an answer to the question why the masquerades continued to thrive on the island of Texel and in Brielle and Zoutkamp, while the domestic feast became the norm elsewhere, with particular attention for the process of identity articulation.
    This research is based on newspaper articles and advertisements, memoires and journals, a questionnaire carried out in 1943 by the Meertens Institute as well as an extensive literature research. It exists out of a comparative analysis of the cities and their regions, which are also placed in the context of national developments. This study reveals that the celebration of the feast of Saint Nicholas moved into opposed directions that influenced, interplayed and strengthened each other. On one side the expansion and increasing popularity of the domestic feast caused the loss of popularity of certain activities outside the domestic atmosphere. On the other hand, regulation and limitations of these activities led to their disappearance and stimulated the domestic celebration.
    The results show that the feast of Saint Nicholas can be split up in three distinct groups: the children’s feast, the old activity of Nicholas masquerading that was attended by youth, and activities for adults that were held outside the domestic atmosphere. The children’s feast differed only slightly in the three cities and regions. How extensively the domestic feast was celebrated in families depended on wealth and social class. In all cities and regions changes towards a more civilized, domestic way of celebrating the feast first took place among the bourgeoisie. In particular social-cultural and economic factors, and to a lesser extend the distance to nearby cities, seemed to have played a pivotal role into the ability to adapt the domestic celebration. The results did not support the expectation that religion was a decisive factor in these developments, however more research is necessary to be conclusive.
    Several factors of the modernization process, like the implementation of new laws, government regulation, improved infrastructure and means of communication as well as the rise of mass media, played a dynamic and intertwined role in the implementation and spreading of the domestic feast and the conceptualization of Saint Nicholas as a gentle bishop as well as the decline of outside activities. Furthermore, increased welfare, the spread of views originating in the Enlightenment and closer ties of dependency between different social classes, which emerged from ongoing cultural integration, indu-strialization and modernization had a great impact. The rise of pillarized organizations during the interwar period added an extra dimension to these developments. Lower classes on their turn were susceptible to adopt the customs and views of the bourgeois.
    While the popularity of the domestic celebration kept rising, old customs started to fade. At the island of Texel initially two masquerades took place, that both lost popularity at the same pace as the mainland masquerades, which eventually disappeared. The replacement of Nieuwe Sunderklaas by the domestic feast around 1955 led to an awareness process among Texelians and to the revival of Ouwe Sunderklaas, as a reaction to cultural homogenization and the modernization process. It became a clear identity marker and a vehicle in expressing the difference between self and the others.
    Just like the islanders, Briellenaren and Zoutkampers, identity building in the regions justified and legitimated itself through a presumed old heritage. Initiators in the regions however put their focus on other subjects, like language, folklore and other customs that were considered to be inherent to their people and territory. The negative connotations accompanying the mainland masquerades partially caused them never to be considered a suitable subject for identity construction. Also, the number of social classes was much larger and tourism had not yet become significant enough to be of influence on the locals as it did on Texel, causing growing cultural awareness. Initiatives of identity building and cultural awareness in Friesland and Groningen were also not limited to regions within the provincial borders, but were based on the provinces as a whole. In addition, in West-Friesland the masquerades disappeared decades before the process of cultural awareness in this region took off. Furthermore, identity building and regional awareness didn’t result in a rejection of national developments for any of the researched regions in the way it did among Texelians. It paved the way for the feast of Saint Nicholas to be celebrated in an identical manner in all parts of the Netherlands.
    Date of Award11 Nov 2020
    Original languageDutch
    SupervisorHanneke Nap (Supervisor) & Janny Bloembergen - Lukkes (Examiner)

    Master's Degree

    • Master Kunst en Cultuurwetenschappen

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