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  • A true story.

    In Belgium we celebrate Sinterklaas - roughly the European equivalent of Santa Claus. It has nothing to do with Christmas, however. The holy man’s day is December 6th and Sinterklaas is the patron of children. His is purely a children’s celebration.
    Around that time a number of people will dress up like the old saint with the long red cloak, the staff and the white beard. His black servants in livery will carry a bag of presents and sweets to hand out, and the Sint will look in his big old book to see whether every child has been good.

    For quite some time, my uncle was an only child. My grandmother had nearly died giving birth to him and she was told not to have children for a while.
    When my uncle was five years old, an aunt took him along to see Sinterklaas for the first time. They went to Brussels (another first), where the Sinterklaas-on-duty sat on a throne in a big department store the likes of which his little village didn’t know. Doubtlessly an overwhelming experience for any child.

    All children in turn were invited to come up to the holy man, sit on his lap and talk to him a bit. Sinterklaas would usually ask if they’d been good, and what they would like as a present this year. Afterwards the kid would get a sweet or some small toy. When his turn came, and my uncle was asked what he wanted, he replied: ‘A little sister.’

    The good holy man hesitated. ‘As for this year I’m afraid that’s impossible. And I can’t make you any promises. But if you are very VERY good, you save all your money and you listen to your mum and dad, and you behave yourself all year, maybe, MAYBE next year you might get a little sister.’

    My uncle promised him, and went home.
    Exactly one year later, on December 6th, my mother was born.
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