By Caroline Nelissen in
ERMELO, Netherlands -- While
children in most Christmas-celebrating countries find presents under the
Christmas tree, Dutch children look forward to gifts during their Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas is a
celebration in honor of Saint Nicholas, with a lot of customs. There are
traditional songs and even special television shows for children. Sinterklaas
travels, so the story goes, from Spain to the Netherlands in a steamboat filled
Though December 6
is the anniversary of the death of St. Nicholas, the main celebration is held
here on Sinterklaas Eve, the evening of December 5.
The fun starts
weeks ahead of time. In November, most towns organize a parade to welcome
Sinterklaas, who rides into town on a white horse.
In the weeks that
follow, children can put a shoe in front of the fireplace before they go to
sleep about once a week. They often put a drawing for Sinterklaas and a carrot
and hay for his horse in it.
Much like the
American Santa Claus tradition – which may have been derived from Sinterklaas,
brought to the United States by Dutch settlers – children of the Netherlands
believe that Sinterklaas has a big book that tells how each of them behaved over
the past year.
If a child has
been good, Sinterklaas will put candy or a small present in his or her shoe. In
the past, children were told they would be taken to Spain in a jute sack if
they’d been naughty, but nowadays, most parents don’t do that anymore.
customs are sweet.
together and eat traditional candy that’s associated with the Sinterklaas
celebrations, like speculaas, pepernoten (tiny round speculaas cookies)
made of chocolate, are very popular as well, and people usually get the first
letter of their first name.
But one part of
the holiday – the story of Sinterklaas’ servant, Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete – is
getting some criticism.
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