Sunday, 6 December 2015

Dutch Tradition: Sinterklaas

We all know Santa right? Do you also know Sinterklaas? No? Well, get yourself a cup of tea, take a seat and learn from this history about the Dutch children’s friend. So I’m going to try to explain to you guys what Sinterklaas is... Here is my attempt.

Photo: Pinterest
Sinterklaas arriving on his boat

Sinterklaas looks a lot like Santa. He also has a beard but longer than Santa. Santa has elves that help him and Sinterklaas has helpers we call: pieten. (The last 4 or 5 years there’s a huge discussion if the way the pieten looks like are racist or not because we paint our face black and wear wigs and funny sort of satin looking outfit… As a child I never thought it was racist, and I still don’t think this children’s event is based on racist thoughts but other people feel discriminated which I also understand. To make it clear, I’ve never compared zwarte piet to someone with a darker skin colour. 

And I really understand that it hurts people who have (had) to deal with racism due to zwarte piet: translation: black piet. So I’m also okay with coloured faces they introduced one or two years ago than only black faces to stop the racism. My biggest problem with this discussion is that it's completely getting out of hand. Grown-ups (black and white) are literally yelling at each other without listening and saying the worst things to each other... The tradition mood has changed from everything happy to a heated never ending discussion.) But I don’t feel like discussing the racist-or-not-part. But I had to tell this because this is a major thing in here in Holland. I just want to talk about the happiness it brought me as a little girl.

photo: Pinterest
Chocolate letters, pepernoten, kruidnoten, schuimpjes and of course presents!
I’m going to tell you the story of this wonderful man. (Yes, it’s a college this time, you seriously are going to learn something about the Dutch traditions)

Once a year an old man comes from Spain on his boat to the Netherlands to celebrate his birthday on December 5th. And no one knows how old he exactly is... The old man has very funny and sweet helpers: (zwarte) pieten. A whole year Sinterklaas and his pieten are preparing for the best three weeks in the Netherlands. November 14th this year he had arrived on the boat full of candy: pepernoten, kruidnoten, taaitaai poppen and chocolate letters and of course presents for all of us!
For us, as family, every Saturday we were allowed to put our shoe nearby the door. (It looks like Christmas with the socks on the fireplace)
Then we had to sing a song to Sinterklaas and the pieten to let them know we set our shoe and show them that we've been a sweet boy or girl this year and really would love to get some present in our shoe!! Then the next morning the shoe is filled with a present or/and some candy.

Me and my friend Michelle uppacking our presents at school
And then, the big day arrives. The whole three weeks has been filled with ridiculous songs about Sinterklaas and finally it’s December 5th. The big day. On that day Sinterklaas comes and leave a sack full of presents at your front door, or what happened often to us,piet was being funny and he hid the sack with presents somewhere in our house and we had to look for it. (After he sneaky knocked on our door. The door knocking is very important! There is ALWAYS knocking.)
The whole evening is about food, family and presents and it’s like the best thing that ever happened to me when I was a little girl.
The whole day I was excited and wanted to know when Sinterklaas would come and bring us presents. But you never know when he’s coming because Sinterklaas has to go to every boy and girl in the country.

Me and my sister with piet 'hats' and schminked faces

Sinterklaas also has a big red book. In that book is written all the good and the bad things you did that year and how much presents you get. (That’s just bullsh*t, it’s only to keep us, little jumping pumped up kids grounded J ) I was always a bit scared of Sinterklaas. He was so beautifully dressed and he just looks very impressing. Piet has always been my favourite because he gives me candy and is always funny.

I still love this time of the year. Even though I’m older now and know the secret of this children’s day and the discussion. Now we mostly buy presents for each other. Something like secret Santa but different. And we have a nice dinner together. But I think the moment that we’re all together and have fun is the best part of Sinterklaas nowadays.

photo: Pinterest

I know Sinterklaas looks a lot like Christmas but as a proud dutchy I can say that the tradition of Sinterklaas is older than the story of Father Christmas. (Although I also love love love Christmas, we don't celebrate it with presents.) We have Sinterklaas on December 5th.

So, now you’ve learned a little bit about our awesome tradition. I hoped you liked it and found it interesting!

Xx Rianne
1 comment on "Dutch Tradition: Sinterklaas"
  1. Thank you for such a wonderful and insightful post! I found you through a community on google+ It is so interesting to learn about different cultures. I have lived in Holland for three years now and I am aware of the debate that is going on about Piet. On a more positive note you taught me some new things! :) xx