Sinterklaas and Pacifiers

Ghent Guide Anna — Pacifier Tree

Do you remember when you had to abandon your first love? I am sure you are now thinking of anything but the thing I will talk about. This separation is easy for some and painful for others, but we all somehow forget about it and usually, only our parents can bring it back to our mind. I’m talking about your pacifier.

Opinions on breaking a child’s pacifier differ: some insist that the sooner it disappears from the toddler’s life, the better. Others say that the best strategy is waiting – sooner or later little ones will be done with their pacifiers. This second approach usually prevails in Belgium: my Russian-speaking clients on a tour in Ghent or Bruges are often surprised to see a child of about four with a pacifier.

There are many tricks to help children break their pacifier habit. In Belgium, little ones are often asked to give their pacifiers to Sinterklaas, our Belgian Santa Claus. Every year he personally meets the brave kids who are ready to entrust him with their dummies. In Ghent, this meeting takes place at the garden of the De Wereld van Kina Children’s Museum, Berouw 55, 9000 Gent. This year Sinterklaas is waiting for the toddlers, ready to part with their pacifiers, on Tuesday, December 4.

At 4 p.m. all participants gather at Godshuishammeke 20, from where the procession will move to the museum garden. Some children will be able to take a place in the horse carriage with Sinterklaas, the rest of the kids and the parents will walk. In the garden, Sinterklaas himself will take each child’s pacifier and pass it to his attendants to hang it in a magical Pacifier Tree. After that, everybody will move to the assembly hall to listen to the ukulele, drink cocoa and share experiences.

Parents pay 1 euro for each child. What do the organizers charge this symbolic fee for? For the gift that each child will receive, and for the warm chocolate drink that will be served to the participants.

If you want to attend, you should register online before November 30 on the museum website where you can also find other practical information. The number of participants is unlimited, just about 40 girls and boys were on the list for this morning. Most of them are 3–4 years old, but there are also two- and five-year-olds.

Ghent Guide Anna — Pacifier Tree

The Pacifier Tree you see in the picture doesn’t grow in Ghent, nor even in Belgium, but in Denmark, in the suburb of Copenhagen, Fredericksberg. Fredericksberg has a beautiful palace park, where we somehow stumbled upon this tree. For the next half an hour, we deciphered the postcard texts that little Danes tied to the tree along with their pacifiers. I don’t think I’ve read anything more touching in my life:

Ghent Guide Anna — Pacifier Tree

The front side says I love you, and the inscription on the back says (my translation): ‘Dear pacifier tree, I must give you all my pacifiers because I am 3 years old now. Take care of them. Love, Elva.’

There are other Pacifier Trees in other cities, from Stockholm to Jerusalem. So if your child is ready to part with a pacifier, and if you can’t get an audience from Sinterklaas, maybe you may find a Pacifier Tree in your neighborhood, or choose a tree yourself and start a new tradition in your city!