Typical Dutch

‘Seeing Sarah’ in the dark

The building was empty, it was dark outside and many of my colleagues had already gone home. ‘I hate this time of the year when it gets dark early. If I were still in Malaysia at this hour, I would constantly pray not to bump into a ghost,’ I said to myself softly and laughed…

As I opened my office door, I saw a disfigured being with a resemblance to my friend’s supervisor sitting on her chair. ‘What the ****!!’ My heart stopped beating for a while. I was still in a state of shock when my friend came in and said: ‘Oh, it seems you have met Sarah.’

‘Sarah’ and ‘Abraham’ are two of the most gruesome creatures that you can find here in the Netherlands. They only appear on your 50th birthday, have mutated bodies, wear almost the same clothes that you wear and have your picture stuck on their head. If you are lucky, you will see them during the daytime and their ridiculous appearance will make you laugh until your belly hurts. But if you bump into them at night, they might give you the shock of a lifetime (well, they did me for sure).

Why do people turning 50 ‘see Sarah’ or ‘see Abraham’? I bet even the majority of the Dutch don’t know

Making a Sarah or Abraham figure on someone’s 50th birthday is one of the Dutch traditions that I find amusing. What is the symbolic meaning behind these dolls and why do people say that people turning 50 are ‘seeing Sarah’ or ‘seeing Abraham’? I’m not so sure myself, and I bet even the majority of the Dutch don’t know what lies behind their weird birthday celebration. Maybe frightening people is their idea of fun.

Mas Muniroh Binti Mohd Nadzir, PhD candidate in Plant Breeding, from Malaysia

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