Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Sinterklass Celebration Coming to Rhinebeck
Imagine an olde tyme holiday, with pageants, mummers, puppets, a giant pop-up book lit from within, Sinterklass arriving by boat, and you begin to have an idea what the towns of Rhinecliff and Rhinebeck have up their sleeves in December. Among the more traditional European pieces of what promises to be a multiculti fest of lights, there will be a short performance of St. George and the Dragon. I play the Dragon (roaring is incredible fun). The public performances are being orchestrated by Jeanne Fleming (goddess-mind behind New York City's Halloween Parade and many other public spectacles).
We have been rehearsing in the former Bing's restaurant in the center of Rhinebeck, now Sinterklass Headquarters, and each night, the large windows of this beautiful building are lit up with the giant puppets being crafted within.
The December events will kick off this Saturday, December 6, 4pm at the dock in Rhinecliff.
About the Sinterklass Festival (Re-posted—Read more at SinterklassRhinebeck.com):
All Hail Sinterklaas!
by Cynthia Own Philip
Sinterklaas is coming to town! Yes, Virginia, he really is. Only he is going to be an even more expansive character than the one you have come to know–a bringer of light, love, generosity, warmth–the good king, the guardian of children.
Some of you may remember the magical Dutch Christmas celebrations with which our own celebration artist Jeanne Fleming filled the village of Rhinebeck's streets for seven years in the 1980s. Their pageantry turned girls and boys into
monarchs for the day. They wore crowns and carried scepters they had created themselves and grown-ups paid courtly deference to them.
The same will be true of the new Sinterklaas festival, set for Saturday, December 6th. The difference is that the celebration will reach back in time far beyond the Dutch tradition to the roots every human being has devised to make tangible the
mantra "Let there be light." Thus the Sinterklaas celebration will be secular, ecumenical and diverse, including Christians, Jews and nature lovers along with our growing Mexican population. The original Native American culture will be featured, too. The aim of Sinterklaas is to strengthen and refresh Rhinebeck's sense of community as well as its very long history reaching back to its earliest Dutch roots.
What is grand about the vision is that it offers opportunities for everyone to
participate—banjo players, singers, actors, yarn spinners, painters, dancers, and puppeteers to name only a few, for the range of performers in our neighborhood is astonishingly wide and deep.
One Festival, Many Events
Six weeks before December 6, internationally known puppeteers Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles - they fabricate the giant puppets for New York City's Halloween
Parade and are based in Red Hook - will begin workshops for groups of friends, teens, families, schools and local organizations. They will be at work every day in Bings if you want to drop in a help for a couple of hours.
On November 29 at 6 pm, St. Nicholas, so beloved by the Dutch will arrive in a sloop at the Rhinecliff Landing a week before the festival. For three nights he will ride through Rhinebeck neighborhoods. His white horse will seek out the traditional "carrot in a shoe" the children have left for him. He will be accompanied by the Grumpus, his prankster sidekick who will leave candy on the doorsteps of those that do and a St. George and the Dragon play created by Peter Muste. This play and others created by the Center for the Performing Arts will be performed at the workshop on weekends and on the Festival Day itself.
Prelude over, the eagerly anticipated day of celebration will at last arrive. With all the vents planned, the town will have become an enchanted place. Hundreds of children will make their crowns and branches-scepters at a workshop at the Dutch Reformed Church. They will attach three wishes to their branches - one for their families, one for their town and one for the world. Throughout the day performances in Town Hall, the churches, the Beekman Arms and the shops will present the varied solstice traditions from around the world. Singers, dancers, musicians, the Abbots Bromley Deer Dance, a stilt band and fire jugglers will fill the streets. The culminating event of the day will be a Children’s Starlight Parade.
While the children adorn themselves with their crowns and their branches, grown-ups will carry large illuminated stars - hundreds of them. (These can be purchased ahead of time in support of the Whalewatch along with traditional Chocolate Letters). In the grand finale, the adults, bearing their Stars, will bow down to the children, honoring them as the town’s future–and for a brief moment holding the stars at the child’s waist level, will position the children in a filed of stars. Then, as they again stand, they will raise the stars above their heads, placing them and the entire community in its proper place in the firmament. In that one moment the entire community will come together under the stars. Afterwards, they may take their beautiful stars home as a reminder of the communal celebration. But they must not forget to bring them back for Sinterklaas 2009 when still more stars will be be added to the galaxy.
Festivals of light are an ancient and global way to bring communities together and Rhinebeck’s Sinterklaas is an exercise in modern mythmaking, as a new story for our town is created based on deep tradition and history. Be sure to mark Rhinebeck's unique Sinterklaas on your must do calendar!