Sinterklaas is back in the Netherlands, just in time to save everybody for a brief moment from economic misery and the expectation of difficult times ahead. He arrived this morning in Almere Harbor, applauded by numerous dutch children and their parents. A nationwide broadcast event. Sinterklaas can be considered the great-grandfather of Santa. His birthday is december 5th and that day dutch children are given presents by the bishop considered to be a protector of children. All the same his birthday is a very serious event. Economically in the first place. Lots of money is being spent in his name. Besides that it seems to have an importace as a kind of nation-defining event. If Sinterklaas arrives in town (as he does in every dutch town and village) he is traditionally received by the mayor and lots of families eager tho see the "kindervriend". Any mayor that happily concedes his own importance to Sinterklaas, for on that day Sinterklaas is the most important person in town. He's a kind, fatherly and very sensible man, almost untouchable by his enormous age. The kind of father-figure the dutch like looking up to; the kind they have been lacking lately. It's kind of instructive, just watching what's happening. It reveals something of dutch society in public not easily to be seen at other times. Each year the same little play is enacted. Dutch parents take their children to see something they have been watching with their parents. It's kind of odd, to see all these serious-minded dutch adults, in a big conspiracy aimed at tricking their children into the conviction, this old bishop really exists and will be riding the rooftops of their houses, to drop little gifts for them down the chimney. When Sinterklaas arrives, everyone sets aside their problems for a moment. Not only dutch children. You can bet his arrival was very welcome to all dutch, in these dire economical times. Deluding yourself a few days a year turns out to be a sensible way of surviving, not just in the late dark autumn of 2008.