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Sinterklaas prime candidate for ‘Heritage of Humanity’ list

Initiative of new UNESCO program

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

NEW YORK CITY, New York - A cultural heritage program initiated in 1999 by UNESC0 Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura could turn into a boost for Sinterklaas, the patron of children and the key figure in the Saint Nicholas fest as celebrated almost slely in the Netherlands. The new program is set up to protect and promote ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.’ Beethoven’s ‘Ninth symphony’ recently was added to the list.

The UNESCO list complements the longer existing one of ‘tangible’ cultural heritage sites, of which there are six in the Netherlands, among which the windmills at Kinderdijk. Although the U.N. convention to protect such sites had been signed in 1972, the Dutch government did not join it until 1992.

A newly-formed lobbying group warn that the uniquely Dutch phenomenon of Sinterklaas is in “danger of becoming extinct at the hands of his more universally celebrated ‘offspring’ Santa Claus.”

The new UNESCO list among others requires that the ‘masterpiece’ is regional, preferably national, that it is of high cultural quality yet endangered, and that a program can be put into place to preserve and enhance the phenomenon.

Although the Dutch government has been urged to consider Sinterklaas as the country’s first ‘applicant’ for an entry on the Intangible Heritage of Humanity list, it is not likely it will act hastily or even willingly. The Netherlands has yet to join this particular U.N. program. In the meantime, great (official) efforts are being made to enhance and update the image of the Netherlands abroad. Sinterklaas - very arguably - could be considered not flashy enough for contemporary tastes and thus become part of the notable image subjects due for a change: windmills, tulips, wooden shoes and cheese.