On Saturday I ventured into Melbourne for the annual Sinterklaas celebration. Long time readers will know that this is a Dutch Christmas celebration held about 3 weeks before the big day. Cheeseboy, being Dutch, has been celebrating Sinterklaas in Melbourne for about 15 years. The basic deal is a bit like a Kris Kringle with a twist. You get nominated to buy someone an inexpensive gift, which is presented on the night along with a poem you have written for them. The poem is the tricky part.
I’ve attended these celebrations for so long, with basically the same bunch of people, that there have been years when I’ve felt quite jaded by it. It’s the poem that gives me the shits. For someone like me, who likes novelty, it feels like a tired concept sometimes, particularly when you’re writing for the same bunch of people. As a result I’ve tried to challenge myself with it over the years to try to make it fresh. I’ve written conventional poetry, sure, but also epic poems, haiku, limericks, song lyrics. This year it was a rap.
Traditionally for me I always leave it to the last-minute. I actually thought about it ahead of time this year, but made a deliberate choice to set it aside. Anything else feels like cheating. I was getting my hair cut and chatting about it to my hairdresser Saturday afternoon as he cut my hair. “Why don’t you a rap?” he said.
I got back to the Cheese’s at about 5pm and proceeded to write. It came surprisingly easy, and was the most fun I’ve had writing a ‘poem’ for the occasion. There’s a bit of licence in writing a rap, as well as the excuse to throw in some language not normally associated with poetry.
So the night commenced and it followed the usual routine. Nibbles first, cheese, some Dutch delicacies, and even the standard Dutch licorice. Then dinner. Cheeseboy generally does the cooking, and the idea is that it’s Dutch food we eat – which, thankfully, is always actually Indonesian. Then we all sit down to dinner and wine and so on.
After dinner is the gift giving, which is always good for a laugh. Roll the dice, someone picks a present and reads out loud their poem. Often these are very funny, and regularly surprisingly good. You’re supposed to guess who wrote the poem for you, then unwrap your present.
My rap went down very well. I thought it was actually relevant to my recipient, but was also pretty funny. Someone said it was the best poem ever, but if it was it was for novelty alone.
The night finished at about 2am. I tumbled into one of the kids beds and slept like a log until nearly 10am, and have been feeling it ever since. No doubt, it takes longer every year to get over these nights. Well worth it, however.