The best way to… survive Sint Maarten

If you were planning on relaxing after post-exam partying, don’t count on it. The holiday season is kicking off with Holland’s Sint Maarten celebration this Tuesday.

On the 11th of November, the Dutch celebrate the legacy of St. Maarten, a soldier in the Roman army who met a beggar freezing in the streets one day. Being the noble badass that he was, Maarten cut his thick red cloak in half and handed it over to the desperate man. He got himself the title of Saint and became synonymous with light and charity forevermore.

Nowadays, the Dutch celebrate St. Maarten by having children visit the houses in their neighbourhood with homemade lanterns – bringing light – and singing happy songs. The roles of each party have gotten a little fuzzy, though. Now, the ones ‘giving light’ expect something in return: candy, to be exact. These top 5 tips will guide you in your plight to overcome the swarms of kiddies at your doorstep.

Go with the flow: Buy a bag of candy on sale. If you live in a student house, chances are unlikely the kids will pester you at all. They know where the best loot is – and students are typically not the right target group to ask for free stuff. Still, be prepared.

Set your priorities: Kids are sneaky. Every year, they think of shorter and faster songs to take up less of their precious candy-reaping time. You’ll notice that kids will rush through a song because they really don’t care about singing for you. It’s nothing personal: light has been overshadowed by greed. But if you insist, you can ask them for another song for that extra bit of illumination in your life.

Break their heart: Nothing breaks a child’s heart more than not getting what they want. Enter: the tangerine. This traditional fruit is favored over candy because it is healthy. Kids hate it though, and this is evident when their anticipation turns to utter disgust at the first sight of orange fruit. If you think this is cruel and unusual punishment, see it more as doing them a long-term favor.

Going Dutch: The kids will typically come between 6pm and 8pm. If you have all the light and happiness you can handle for one night, act like you’re having dinner. You probably know by now that for Dutch people, suppertime is sacred. No matter how often you ring the doorbell, the Dutch will not leave their stamppot to answer the door for anyone.

Free buffet: Some Dutch people don’t like happy children, so they leave a basket of candy outside. This is a great way to placate the kids, but it’s not really gezellig. If you really can’t be at the house that evening, then this is an acceptable option. At least you thought about the kids, and that’s all that matters on this beautiful day of giving and receiving – but mostly giving.