Sunday, November 15, 2009


Hij komt, hij komt,
de lieve goede Sint,
mijn beste vriend, jouw beste vriend,
de vriend van ieder kind. 

He's coming He's coming
the sweet good Saint
my best friend, your best friend
the friend of all the kids

All the Dutch kids are singing this right now with much joy on their face as Sinterklaas enters the land.  Sinterklaas is such a hype here. As he arrived yesterday by boat, thousand of children and parents welcomed him and his Piets, there was a huge parade and it always makes big media attention.  During his stay in the country (which lasts until December 6th) there will be a Sinterklaas series on tv, Sinterklaas journal (news broad casted daily), there is even a Sinterklaas movie.

Why Sinterklaas and not Santa Claus like the rest of the Westerners?
The Dutch immigrants actually brought Sinterklaas tradition to North America with them.  Saint Nicholas was a Bishop in Turkey that was well known for his good deeds towards poor children in Europe.  He also became known as the patron saint of Amsterdam.  He had a sidekick named Zwarte Piet (black Pete) some believe this to be his slave and other say this was a Turkish orphan child that travelled as Saint Nicholas' helper.  He also has a white horse called "Amerigo".

St. Nicholas was pictured as a tall dignified man in a red cloak and a long Bishops crook.  Zwarte Piet in Turkish garb red lips and golden loop earrings.  The legend depicts St. Nicholas and Zwarte Piet travelling from their home in Spain across Europe to help the poor and feed the children.   Through out the ages as the story grew into a tradition, St. Nicholas and Zwarte Piet would travel to Holland by steam boat in November and leave early December 6th.  The children would set their shoes by the fire place and Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet would fill their shoe with small gifts and treats like pepernoten, chocolate initials, marzipan figures and fruit.  If the children are naughty they get a lump of coal or worse get whipped with a birch switch that Sinterklaas would carry with him.  Today he is seen as much gentler figure.  Zwarte Piet is portrayed as a jokester.

Not sure how it works in EVERY house but this is how it works in our house.  Sinterklaas may have arrived in Holland THIS weekend but he has not arrived in OUR city and will not until next weekend (also by boat).  That is when we allow our children to set their shoes (or boots) out by the heater (if we had a fire place they would set it by the fire place). They must sing a song when they set their shoe's and preferably place a carrot or apple for "Amerigo" in the shoe.

In the morning they will find some goodies and MAYBE a small gift waiting for them.  This does not happen EVERY often in our house but maybe 2-3 times a week. The evening of December 5th we will usually invite Oma and Opa over for some treats and for the "fun".  ALL OF A SUDDEN... we will here a bang on the door.  The kids will run to the door and there will be a bag full of gifts left from Sinterklaas and the Piets.

With in seconds the room is cluttered with wrapping paper and the kids are happy with their new toys (usually). 

Some of the traditional Sinterklaas Lekkers (treats).

Pepernoten - little cookies that taste like speculaas - to me taste like pumpkin pie spices.

Chocolate covered pepernoten - one of my favorite!

Chocolate letters - doesn't get much better than this!  Traditionally kids get a chocolate letter - either with the letter for their name or a "S" for Sinterklaas or "P" for Piet.

I think most people are familiar with windmill cookies!?

Amandel staafjes or letters - Pastry with an almond paste centre.  
Marzipan figures  


Taaitaai - a chewy cookie with a hint of licorice flavouring.

Now trying to stay on my diet this time of the year is the only trick! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I miss it all already! Can't wait until we have children and can experience the other end of Sinterklaas festivities!