Reasons to Believe: Celebrating Sinterklaas in Nigeria

What are memories made of?
Fragments of colored glass, perfect for life’s grand mosaic
Pieces of patterned cloth for the patchwork quilt of our earth journeys
And thick threads, for the tapestries we weave of the world


In it, on the mosaics, atop the quilts and woven into the tapestries,
Are people, loved and not,
Faces – gorgeous, beautiful, scarred and tanned
And names, full of meaning and wisdom, in places far and yet undiscovered
Memories are nuggets of warmth on a cold day
A lazy stroll through the dusky lanes of our minds and hearts
I want all my memories to be happy
Joyful, truly worthy to be called remembrances and forget-me-nots


My memories of Sinterklaas span three decades
They stretch back to a time when I was only waist-high tall
And when we lived in a world that was easy
And gilded with the lilies of youth
A time when Sinterklaas was to my sisters and I his translated English name ‘Saint Nicholas’
And when we called his helpers, colorfully clad with faces the colour of tar, Black Peters
The streets and avenues of my mind are strewn with peppernoten, kruidnoten
And pastel-colored candy, hard sweets the pattern of red and white Christmas candy canes
And the warming spices of autumn and fall – cinnamon, ginger, cloves
Scents that awaken thoughts in my head


I am a part of all I’ve met
Grateful to be a part of all I’ve met
My friendships, conversations, handshakes
And three kisses, cheek to cheek to cheek
I am no longer the ‘me’ I was
The ‘me’ of twenty seven years ago
I am a ‘me’ who celebrates The 4th of July and American Thanksgiving;
Attends Canadian Independence Barbeques
And cries on Nigeria’s Independence Day
My world has been lit by ‘Diwali’ and Scandinavian Santa Lucia
Wearing Orange in spring is part of my Dutch heritage, as an honorary citizen
Sinterklaas this year will be no secret poems
No exchange of gifts wrapped in Hessian sacks
Sinterklaas this year will be heads and hearts
Chock full of memories past


This year, there will be apple cake
Sinterklaas’s White horse likes apples
There will be store-bought Speculaas
And glasses of (warm) milk
There will be many Sinterklaas songs
And even a book
And by some fortuitous spirit
There will be a handful of authentic bakers Kruidnoten
Ferried by an angel called a colleague
Fresh from The Hague
And just as giving thanks on Thanksgiving Day felt natural
So does celebrating Saint Nicholas feel
On the 5th of December, at home in Nigeria
Memories of the recent past
Hand in heart
Happy Sinterklaas
To our Dutch ‘family’ – real and adopted
Across the oceans
We love you!

 Sinterklaas related Posts

Sinterklaas Factfile

Sinterklaas is a Dutch tradition that has been celebrated for at least 350 years, testimony is given by the ‘The Feast of Saint Nicholas’, a painting by the Dutch Master, Jan Steen in 1665. This painting is one of his best and happiest and depicts a family celebrating the feast of Saint Nicholas.

It captures all the tales about Sinterklaas – the communal nature, the gifts or lack of for both good and not-so-good children

What strikes me is the basket of goodies full of biscuits and bread and what looks like a large speculaas cookie.



    • Hope you have a very wonderful time away, with family, friends and food! Nigeria is treating me WELL, I am finally getting the sense of ‘belonging’ I longed for. Stay well and read you in 2012

  1. I love hearing about the people and places that mean something to an individual. What a beautiful post you shared with us. Many blessings, my friend.

  2. This is such a touching post. We didn’t celebrate Christmas growing up so I feel there are some big experiences missing in my life. Reading this gets me motivated to creaye similar memories and experiences for my children.

  3. Happy St Nicholas day – it has special memories for me too. My Dad was Polish and my aunt would always bring us sweets saying ‘a strange man stopped me in the street and said these were for you”! Beautiful post.

  4. Your words are always music to my ears! You have a way to help me see the world around me through the eyes of wonder, memories, history, traditions… as always… love you!

  5. Just looking at those cookies bring back childhood memories for me, back when I used to drink milk and dunk the windmill cookies in it. I did show my daughter the Dutch cookies and she brought them to school to share with her classmates. I will be making banket by myself this year, my mom is up in west Michigan during the holiday, but I have her directions.

    Have a happy Sinterklaas celebration Oz! Thanks for sharing so many wonderful things!

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