Thursday, November 17, 2005

Culture: Again Sinterklaas (even deeply embedded traditions are dynamic)

In the newspaper, a puppetplayer complained about the sinterklaasjournaal, which is a daily program on television for kids on sinterklaas. Traditionally (read: in my time), sinterklaas would arrive by boat from spain on television mid November to disappear apart from a felt presence through the chocolate sigarettes you would find in your shoe. He would visit your school by December and on the 5th the whole event would peak by the sudden appearance of a bag full of presents. Now, there is a lot of drama added to the event by the daily edition of the sinterklaasjournaal, there is a movie, pop music, etc. The puppetplayer is especially worried about the use of cliffhangers in this program, whereas toddlers need short stories. (don't know about this, my children seem to like it a lot..) Also by seeing sinterklaas daily on television, children tend to notice the difference between the one of television and the one they see face-to-face, taking away part of the mystery around sinterklaas. (I recognise this from nasty questions about the colour of his eyes!).

Anyhow, this shows that even deeply embedded traditions do change to go with overall changes in society (in Den Bosch, see picture, the music played has a carnaval rhythm :)).

The dynamics of tradition reminds me of my visit to a village in Ghana where we met a female chief. Since we were always tracking the numbers of female mayors in Ghana (thinking of the traditional authorities as something static and male), I was curious to know her story. She explained that she had been very involved in development activities in her village, so when the old chief died she was invited to become the new chief (traditionally, one of the eligible men of certain families will be chosen). Everything can change.

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