Winter seems to be the time of celebrations. St. Martin’s Day last week, the arrival of Sinterklaas this week!
In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas – St. Nicholas – is more popular than Santa Claus, though they have plenty of similarities: red outfit, white beard, you name it.
Sinterklaas‘ mode of transport is an old-fashioned steam boat, with which he arrives every year in mid-November. The boat is laden with gifts, candy, helpers and his white horse Amerigo – it’s an awesome horse, as it can climb onto the roof tops.
Like Santa, Sinterklaas has helpers, not elves but a lot of Zwarte Pieten – Black Peters. They are the ones that spread gifts and keep track of the good and bad children, whose names get written up in the Big Book of Sinterklaas.
The origin of Black Peter is a continuous topic of debate, obviously due to the racial aspect. I prefer to believe that Peter is black because he is the one that always has to climb through the chimney – kinda like a chimney sweep 🙂
We celebrate Sinterklaas Eve on the 5th of December. Three weeks prior to that he arrives to the Netherlands, on his big boat, all the way from Madrid, Spain. Now, this is the time to put your best foot forward – literally! Kids get to put their shoe in front of the fire-place, stuffed with letters for Sinterklaas, drawings for Zwarte Piet and carrots for Amerigo.
Over night, Zwarte Piet will come down the chimney, take the gifts and in return leave some candy.
On the big night itself, I remember being so excited! Would he have noticed I had been a good girl? Did he like my drawings? Would I get that doll I asked for?
*triiiinggg* The doorbell! I would run to the door, trying to get a glimpse of Sinterklaas or Zwarte Piet, whom sneakily left a bag of gifts in front of the door…
… never once did I actually catch them in the act – though my mom was always conveniently in the bathroom at that moment… 😉