We interrupt the Thanksgiving transmission to bring you breaking news – Sint is in TOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
#1 on the list of top dutch traditions is Sinterklaas…..and the present-giving on December 5. If you’re ‘good’, Saint Nicholas has your name in his book and brings you loads of (little) presents.
Sinterklaas is a holy man with Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters) for helpers (as opposed to being a fat and jolly santa with elves). The Pieten are black because they come down the chimney to drop off the presents Sinterklaas brings the kids!
First of all, Sinter lives in Spain…sunny and bright and Santa, well, he comes from the North pole right? And they arrive on different days. Sint arrives officially in November at the various harbours in the Netherlands by boat (and car and train). This saturday, it was our turn to see him in our little dorp (village).
A few weeks ago, some friends of ours invited us to celebrate Sinterklaas with them…and that’s an event….that begins weeks before the official present-giving day on the 5th of December. Last night we met up – 2 families to start the celebration. First we did our lootjes trekken, which is lottery picking essentially. What happens is that each person writes out their names, their hobbies and what they would like as a gift (which costs about 10 euros or less) on a piece of paper. All the pieces go in a hat and each person picks one. Now you’re not supposed to let anyone know who you’ve got….super secret, just like Secret Santa.But that’s not all. You are tasked to write a poem, usually a funny one, teasing the recipient about some characteristic or habit and you also have to creatively disguise whatever gift you get them for the 5th of December. This is called suprise, pronounced the French way.
The kids put their shoes out before bed with some carrots for sinterklass and his horse, sang songs and this morning when they woke up…they had sweet, orange mandarins in their shoes! And boy, were they excited. Anyhow, he arrived in our village this afternoon and we went to meet him. First the Pieten were out in full force, singing and playing instruments for Sinterklaas loves music. And the weather was so so beautiful – just like a summer’s day!
The habour was full….parents, kids, the mayor and more…and loads more people, watching from their balconies with a Lady Pieten for an MC.
The Burgemeester (The Mayor) was there also….along with an entourage of photographers….next time, maybe I’ll request a special ‘box’…..
There were kids dressed up in all manner of outfits – from Sinterklaasjes to Pieten….
Finally Sint arrived on his boat. To loads of singing and screaming.
Then he did the rounds, shaking hands with all the kids lined round the habour…helped by his Pieten and his staff!
While he was at one end, the Pieten went round with their sackfuls of sweets, filling outstretched hands with loads of sweets and cookies.
Typical Sinterklaas candy traditionally includes: mandarin oranges, pepernoten, letter-shaped pastry filled with almond paste or chocolate letter (the first letter of the child’s name made out of chocolate), speculaas (sometimes filled with almond paste), chocolate coins and marzipan figures.
It was a very colourful ceremony.
I even put aside my self-photo taking reservations to pose with some Pieten. Spells lots of promise for future outings.
And when the sweets were strewn sufficiently across the street, and Sinterklass had shaken the hand of almost every girl and boy…..we rode away…in a horse and carriage on a procession through town….and we went home! A lovely day. Now I’m looking forward to making my suprise and celebrating on the 5th of December with loads of traditional yummy food! Watch this space…