So what in the world is Sinterklaas?
In mid-November, the arrival of Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet to the Dutch shores is broadcast across the Netherlands. In his full bishop attire, and astride his beautiful white horse, Sinterklaas is welcomed by the mayor of a different village each year. For the next few weeks, he travels around the country, leaving small gifts and treats in the children’s wooden shoes.
On the eve of December 5th, or the morning of December 6, families gather to exchange gifts, some of which come in surprise packaging or with riddles or poems.
For our family, living in the Midwest, we begin our celebrations on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with a visit to Pella, Iowa’s Sinterklaas celebration. On this morning, Sinterklaas arrives in town during the annual parade and greets the visitors at the Tulip Toren. From the Tulip Toren, we gather at a local restaurant to share breakfast with Sinterklaas and then head to the opera house where all the kids gather on stage and lisen to Sinterklaas as he reads from his big book. The book contains short paragraphs about each child that parents previously sent in.
That evening, and for the next 7 nights, our children receive small treats in their wooden shoes. These treats range from king size candy bars and chocolate coins to nail polish and Lego mini-figures.
The last night, the Saturday following Pella, we gather with the extended family and wait for Sinterklaas’ arrival. We sing his welcoming song and Zwarte Piet throws pepernoten (licorce flavored cookies) through the windows to distract the kids. Really, the adults just stuff their pockets and stand by the windows and throw when kids aren’t looking.
Once the kids are thoroughly distracted, one of us sneaks out of the house with the giant bag of gifts, knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, and runs. The rest of the night is opening gifts of chocolate letters and board games.
What traditions do you celebrate that are part of your family’s heritage? Please share.
- My name is Jacki and I am a divorced, Pagan mom trying to raise a son in a blended interfaith family. At The Raven's Spell you will find musings on motherhood, spirituality, divorce, and the blending of families. If you enjoy what you read, please be sure to find a way to follow.
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