Wednesday 5th of December 1984, I am seven years old, it is Sinterklaas Eve. I got the honour to open the evening. First, I unpack my surprise — a handcrafted work of art that typifies the receiver. For me, this year: a paper-maché beam, with blue coloured cotton-wool tears, dangling at seven nylon strings: a huilenbalkje; the Dutch equivalent of a crybaby. So that’s a good start of our cosy family evening.

Now, it is up to me to read out loud the poem that goes with my surprise.

The host of the evening, the “roastmaster”, is Sinterklaas, a friend of all children. 

This annual family roast is a popular tradition in many Dutch families. The host of the evening, the “roastmaster”, is Sinterklaas, a friend of all children. The idea; the roastee is able to take the jokes in good humor and not as serious criticism or insult.

A brilliant tradition that promotes creativity, poetry and empathy. For parents, a great opportunity to break through stubborn role patterns. A screen addicted kid with a surprise and poem that encourages him to go and play outside more.

In the adult-world a roast can be hilarious. Since 1904 famous USA celebrities are roasted in the illustrious New York Friars Club. To be fried is an honour. 

Sinterklaas, however, is for the children. They only start to detect sarcasm in early childhood and see the intended humour in adolescence. A well intended and prepared roast can make an unintended impact. 

My advice would be to simmer a bit and not go for the brutal roast.

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