Christmas is a time when our family get out some very weird traditions – the weirdest probably being mushy peas with our dinner… YUM! But this year I have had to adopt a new tradition Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas is the Dutch (and Belgian) version of Saint Nicholas, now don’t get this confused with Father Christmas or Santa, who rides a sleigh pulled by reindeer, lives in the North Pole and arrives on the 24th December. Sinterklaas does none of these!
Instead of Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Vixen Sinterklaas arrives on a white horse called Amerigo (but most Dutchies call him Schimmel) in the middle of November from Spain into the Netherlands. He stays here until 6th December, meeting children and checking his naughty and nice list. But don’t worry he’s not alone, he comes with his trusty helpers “Zwarte Piet” (Black Pete).
From the time he arrives until the 6th he visits children’s houses leaving sweet treats and small gifts in shoes that children leave out with hay and carrots for the horse. There is no actual set date that SInterklaas arrives at your house, so you shoe must always be prepared! This time of year also brings pepernoten – small round shaped cinnamon cookie things that I have already eaten 3 x my body weight of!
The 5th December is known as Pakjesavond, (literally translated as package evening), and is when you get your main SInterklaas presents. I know what you’re thinking… “So you get presents on the 5th and not on the 25th?”… oh no my friend… we get presents on BOTH!!! That’s right, BOTH! Well when I say “we” I mean children, but seeing as it’s my first year living in the Netherlands, I am really a child in Sinterklaas terms!
Therefore at some unspeakable hour before work, there was suddenly a gift left in my shoe by the door!! …
OK, OK, so the Netherlands obviously has way to many names beginning with K, so I had to have an S letter for my second name instead, which surely would be made of more chocolate, so a bonus right!
All I know is I could get used to this double Christmas thing!