David Sedaris: “Six to eight black men” (a hysterical explanation of the Dutch Santa)

I think Chris first turned me on to this David Sedaris clip, titled “Six to Eight Black Men.” (UPDATE: A reader submitted a new link to the reading that works this time.)

It’s Sedaris’ explanation of Christmas in Holland, and how their local Christmas story is a tad different from our own, including the “fact” that Santa is originally from Turkey, where he worked his previous job as the Bishop, but now lives in Spain. You can imagine how Sedaris responded to that one.

It’s one of the funniest, laugh out loud (then cry out loud) things I’ve ever heard in my life. You have to listen to the entire reading, done by Sedaris himself, over the three clips – it’s only 20 minutes in total, and I think you’ll be crying with laughter.

I remember when I was doing my junior year abroad in France in 1983-84, and as part of my language study we had to get up in front of the class (of foreigners, mostly Europeans, a few Japanese and Latin Americans) and talk about our local Christmas customs. Everyone gave very nice stories of the traditional foods they ate, or how the Swedes sing about Santa Lucia while holding candles in the middle of December – sweet European things like that.

Dutch Christmas Six or Eight Black Men

The Dutch version of Santa comes to town. (Sandra van der Steen / Shutterstock.com)

I, on the other hand, got up and explained, in my still somewhat broken French at the time, the American version of Santa, thinking this was going to be incredibly boring because, really, aren’t all Santa stories the same?

So, I started talking about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and how he guided Santa’s sleigh at night with his bright red glowing nose, and the toy-making elves who live in the North Pole, and how every Christmas eve Santa parks his sleigh on your roof, then comes down the chimney to deliver gifts to all the good boys and girls (the bad ones get coal), then twinkles his nose to fly back up the chimney, and finally, as he flies away in his eight-reindeer-driven sleigh yells “Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!”

They thought I was completely batty.

At first, after they got over their collective laughter, no one believed me that this was the actual American Christmas mythology. I was actually a bit taken aback that the story was that unbelievable to them – that they actually thought I’d quite possibly made the whole thing up myself. Not “unbelievable” that men can fly up chimneys by twinkling their noise – everyone gets that that’s a bit fanciful – but unbelievable that we Americans could actually have such a ridiculous Christmas story.

I had no idea Christmas customs – the story of Santa Claus specifically – was so different in Europe. I honestly thought we got much of our story from them, at least about the reindeer, coming down the chimney, etc. Not so much.

Six or Eight Black men, Dutch Christmas

Dutch Xmas via Shutterstock

Listen to the Sedaris story below, all three clips – it’s a joy. And illustrates the point, in only the way David Sedaris can, that our customs really are quite different in each country. Or as David put its ever so succintly, “everyone knows Santa doesn’t speak Spanish.”

I cannot urge you strongly enough to listen to this – it’s only 15 minutes long, and you will surely not regret it. I listen to this every year and it cracks me up every time. Enjoy.


(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    Oh, I am sure that’s the case. When I mentioned that he benefited and profited from the clips being up there, I meant indirectly. I’m sure he gets nothing in the way of money from YouTube, rather, he only benefits because it makes more people aware of his work, and they buy his books because of it.

    Just guessing here, but I’d think that his income comes from book sales, personal appearances and perhaps a little from his work on “This American Life” on NPR.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Might still be in the UK. Left France a while ago.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    And, I’m just not convinced that these YouTube readings are somehow Sedaris’ main, or even .01%, of his income.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Oh dear lord, that’s funny.

  • ArthurH

    Slightly off topic but I read in my local paper that Texas has its own version and he is Hispanic. The Associated Press article on Poncho Claus (or Poncho Clos) wears a serape and sombrero and is a delight to school kids (all ethnic backgrounds) throughout the state. The portrayers of Poncho Claus have fun with his dress. A photo had one portrayers wearing a sombrero that rotates. Another wears a zoot suit and fedora. But the spirit is the same as Santa, being a character of love and generosity.

  • Badgerite

    You can catch it on You Tube. It is well worth the trouble.
    Type in David Sedaris 6 to 8 black men.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Anywhere north of Santa Barbara and parts of San Diego are acceptable.

  • Bomer

    Well, I’ll raise a glass of Christmas cheer to all the mods tonight and best wishes to you all ^_^

  • Moderator3

    Thank you on behalf of all the mods.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg Moderator4

    Thank you, and to you, as well.
    Although the others also do their jobs. 3 and I are just the most vocal. ;)

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    The mods rock!!!!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “—the door hitting me in my Mr Aravois.” It wasn’t apparent you had a brain.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Merry Ditto on that Fixer!

  • tasteless chap

    I don’t mean to alarm you, but you’re looking in a mirror!

  • ericxdc

    hitting that sherry again a bit early this morning, are we?

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    Three things.

    First, many artists realize the value of YouTube promotion and use that to their advantage. Many of those videos are put up by the artists themselves as a promotional tool.

    Second, Mr. Sedaris could tell YouTube to take this piece down, claiming copyright violation. Surely he’s aware that it exists. It’s been up there for a number of years and someone had to have mentioned it to him. So far, he has not had YouTube pull it. So this likely means that he is cool with it being up there. As others have pointed out, he’s probably benefited and profited from it being up there.

    Thirdly, that piece is not advertiser supported, which this blog is. If Sedaris’s piece had commercial advertising breaks in it and those were stripped out of the YouTube versions of this reading, then yours might be a salient point. But that’s not the case.

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    Jeez, do ya have to be such a twad, Christopher?

    This time of year, regardless of your belief (or lack of it), is a time for celebrating the good of the human spirit. You clearly have forgotten that, or you have chosen to ignore that and spend your time belittling a man whose Internet link didn’t work.

    Do you actually believe that John set this up to purposely disappoint people? Nobody rational would believe that. Nobody with any class would have such a ridiculous thought, let alone take the time to express it.

    Were you pretend kicked by St. Nicholas and 6 to 8 black men, or perhaps stuffed into a sack and taken to Spain as a child? Or did you carefully nurture your ridiculous asinine personality because of some other life event?

    Get the chip off your shoulder and try to enjoy Christmas. you’ll feel much better if you do.

    Oh, and John: thanks for the post, I’ve enjoyed this immensely in the past, and am once again. Hope you are recovering nicely and you have a Merry Christmas.

  • Bomer

    Wishing a very Merry Christmas/Very Happy Holiday to Mods 3&4.
    <3

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg Moderator4

    Good-bye, Christopher. Apparently, you are terribly unhappy here, so we will help you out the door.

  • Christopher
  • Christopher
  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Project much?

  • Monoceros Forth

    In skipping the “self-centered” you landed straight on “ass”. Really you’re not much of an improvement.

  • Christopher

    Well, I certainly wouldn’t want the door hitting me in my Mr Aravois.

  • Moderator3

    Ooooh, do we hafta?

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg Moderator4

    You are more than welcome to take your eyeballs elsewhere, Christopher. And don’t let the door hit you in……etc., on your way out.
    We Moderators nevertheless wish you a happy holiday.

  • Joe Bosse

    Thank you for posting this, It’s always a favorite.

  • Christopher

    Wow, you really are a self-centered ass.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    pppfffttt

  • cole3244

    i think the best thing about this is his voice and enunciation.
    only humor can point out our foolishness as a species and that goes many times over for america.
    great video even with sound only.

  • S1AMER

    Okay. But are you convinced that if somebody simply abstracted your site, without the ads, that enough people would be driven to your site to make up for the lost revenue?

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    If anything it will drive traffic to his site and likely up his book sales. This piece has been on NPR a bunch of times and can be read for free in multiple spots. I’m pretty sure this is not gonna make Mr. Sedaris starve. What country is he living in now?

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    John I would just blame it on krampus he likes to wreak havoc on xmas. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-rHh1_KK4C20/UrCyj7ru5hI/AAAAAAAANRE/FOq6sZvwJYU/s1600/Krampus5-1.jpg

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yeah, the videos really added something by showing the actual photos and videos of the Dutch Santa and his 6 to 8 black men. Oh well.

  • cantake8

    I did greatly enjoy the videos with the other. Too bad about the mixed up access. Thanks for reminding me of this story.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I agree. While I’m sure it’s a copyright violation, I’m not entirely convinced what funds Sedaris is losing out on, and instead I’m convinced that he’s getting far more publicity and new fans via these videos. I doubt anyone listened to these readings and said “that was amazing, now I no longer need to consider buying a David Sedaris book.”
    Quite the contrary for me at least.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Thank you! Just updated it – easier with one link too.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yes, that’s exactly why I was working late the Monday night before Christmas, with a week-long cold, so that I could prepare a fake post in order to ruin your Christmas. I can’t tell you how many Christmases of mine were ruined as a child by coming upon a YouTube video that didn’t work “in country.” (And it’s not just about me – I’m sure you grew up with the same stories from your parents that I did, every time I refused to sit down and watch YouTube my parents would lecture me about the poor kid in India who didn’t even HAVE access to YouTube.) I vowed that I’d come back and avenge the blogger who posted a link to a video that ended up not working. I’d quit my lucrative consulting career, forgo using my JD to become a high priced lawyer, and instead would become a political activist, and a gay activist at a time that it still wasn’t entirely cool to be one, even if it meant watching my salary be cut to 1/4th of what it was before as the economy sank around us 5 years ago, but I still kept at it, kept the blog alive, watching my savings dwindle, because I knew that some Christmas I’d finally get even with you, Christopher, by posting a YouTube link that doesn’t work.

    I can now finally close the blog and go back to making $200,000 a year like everyone else who got my degree. Thank you for freeing me.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Mr. Aravosis is not naughty, but very nice! A lump of coal for you.

  • nicho

    I not only will remember his name, but I have written it down. Yes, I have.

  • nicho

    Please, it’s The People’s Republic of California.

  • Christopher

    Complex joke. Begging us to watch it and then linking to a clip that can’t be seen along with the others. Funny? No, you’re not. I will be remembering your name, Mr Aravosis, and won’t believe what you write again.

  • nicho

    David Sedaris always makes me laugh. This more than anything.

    However, I’ve been laughing over this all morning.

    Small Alabama Town Accidentally Hires Black Drag Queen Dance Troupe for Christmas Parade

    Hilarity and outrage ensue

    http://www.commondreams.org/further/2013/12/23-1

    http://www.commondreams.org/sites/commondreams.org/files/imce-images/prancing_ffbad45c6b1411e39c450e526a816343_8.jpg

  • cantake8

    Parts 1 & 2 play fine, Part 3 is a no-go. That sucks.
    Here is the entire reading from Sedaris’ Carnegie Hall appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYdpte1W0vk

  • jsb

    Part 3 will not play in the country of California…

  • guest

    going to go out on a limb and suggest that john’s annual posts of this, one of the most hilarious sedaris stories, has sold a fairly good number of books — much more so than just saying, “hey. buy a book and read this funny story.”

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    never gets old.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    Part 3 is not available in my country…

  • B.J. Caldwell

    It’s part of my annual Holiday tradition as well. Brilliant.

  • S1AMER

    If Christmas is about giving, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to suggest people go out and buy Sedaris’s book or (even better) his recorded book?

    This is one of the funniest things Sedaris ever wrote (and there’s lots of competition for that), and his reading makes it even funnier.

    But there’s such a thing as copyright, and links to somebody’s posting on Youtube still deprives Sedaris of his right to royalties.

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