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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Around the World Sinterklaas In The Netherlands

First I must give a big thank you to Laane for sharing this wonderful article about Sinterklaas. I will be adding her website link to this blog, as a way of saying Thank You. If you live in another part of the world, or even in the US, and you have traditions or customs you would like to share with my children and readers, I would love to have you as a guest blogger too. Just contact me at for details.

Sinterklaas is the original of Santa Claus.

He was a bishop, living in Mira, who heard the story of two girls who wanted to marry, but couldn't, because they didn't have the money to do so.
In the middle of the night he went to their house and threw a bag with money in their room.

To honor this great man and great gesture, people started to celebrate his birthday by giving presents to others.

During the ages the legend made place for the story of Sinterklaas, who was a bishop living in Spain with a lot of black people who assisted him in finding presents for children. These black people were called Zwarte Piet/black Peter.
Each year, at about the second week of november, Sinterklaas arrives on a steamship, loaded with presents and his assistants, at the harbours of The Netherlands.
The official arrival can be seen by all children on TV.

From that moment on they are allowed to put their shoes ready for a present.

When I was young we put them in front of the open fire. It was told that Sinterklaas went down through the chimney to put a present in the shoe for each child.
When the open fires disappeared people had to be creative and many children now have found another place and have created in their minds another story of how Sinterklaas is able to put a present in their shoes.
My children used to put their shoes behind the front door, telling me that Sinterklaas had a key to open all doors.

The shoes were never put there empty. They contained carrots for the horse, and water too. Sometimes even a drawing for Sinterklaas or something nice for zwarte piet.
And they never left their shoe just like that. No, traditional somgs were sung in the small hall so Sinterklaas could hear they're good kids.
Sometimes the children could hear the white horse of Sinterklaas on the roof.

All through november until december 5th these rituals take place.

In the night between December 5 and 6 Sinterklaas visits all homes before leaving to celebrate his birthday at home.
At many places he leaves the presents beside the shoes, but in our part of the country he leaves the presents on the table.
So when the children come downstairs in the morning they'll find their surprises.

Older children and grown ups draw names and make presents for each other, which are usually unpacked during a small party at the evening of December 5.

When people moved to America they took their tradition with them.
Ofcourse it was adjusted mainly in such a way that the referral to the christian background disappeared. hence the different clothes of Santa Claus.
But hopefully the reason of the gift event is as inspiring to us as it was to Sinterklaas.


betchai said...

Oh, I still can remember my childhood where I patiently wait for gifts by the window to come wishing Santa would give me more:)

Melissa said...

Me too! I love Christmas and it isn't just about gifts.

Sharla said...

I think I will try to do a Christmas Around the World theme in December next year. The kids would love it!

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