Sint versus Santa. How the debate about Christmas traditions in the Netherlands between 1960 and 1980 meant more than just criticizing Santa.
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AbstractThe Christmas traditions within the Netherlands underwent multiple significant changes during the twentieth century. These changes were often associated with the process of Americanization and thus explained through American cultural influences. This thesis focuses on the public debate about these changing Christmas traditions in Dutch newspapers during the period from 1960 till 1980 and if this discussion can be interpreted as an attempt to discuss larger social changes within the Dutch society in this period. This thesis then states that the discourse within the Netherlands changed from a highly critical point of view towards these changes to a more mediated and pragmatic position in this discussion. The discussion is divided in three major themes within the discussion, these are not completely separated from each other and thus interfere with one another. The major themes are the discussion about the Dutch Sinterklaas in comparison to the American Santa Claus in which the Dutch Saint was described as the original Dutch benefactor and Santa is perceived as an American imposter that is solely used for commercial reasons. The second theme focuses on the comparison between the American way of celebrating the holiday in comparison to the Dutch traditions. The American way is mostly perceived by the Dutch newspapers as materialistic, consumerist and empty, while Christmas in the Netherlands was still perceived as a special event with significant meaning. This image is somewhat contradicted by the third theme of the discussion, namely the commercialization of Dutch Christmas traditions. Here it becomes clear that in the Netherlands too, Christmas became more materialistic and consumerist in character, thus stating that there were some American influences on the Dutch way of celebrating the holiday. In short, this thesis states that the discussion about the changing Christmas traditions are an example of what Rob Kroes calls ‘Vertrossing’, a process in which several cultural influences are adapted and included by a receiving culture through a process of mediation as the Dutch society became more secularized in the period, thus more open to commercial and materialistic ways to celebrate the, originally, Christian holiday.