04.12.15 | Events
Sinterklaas, Dutch for St Nicholas, is much loved among the Children of the Netherlands. Mid-November marks Sinterklaas' much awaited arrival. Travelling by boat, Sinterklaas docks in a different city or village each year, accompanied by his helpers, known as the Zwarte Piet (meaning Peter). Sinterklaas, dressed in traditional red robes, then leads a procession through the town, riding a white horse, known as Amerigo.
This marks the beginning of 'schoen zetten', a tradition where children put their shoe next to the chimney or back door, along with a carrot for Amerigo. It's told that at night Sinterklaas rides across rooftops and places little treats and gifts in the Children's shoes in the lead up to the main celebration, which falls on 5 December. This date is known as Sinterklaasavond, which essentially means 'gifts evening'.
In the lead up to Sinterklaasavond parties, each person is allocated a friend or relative to create a 'surprise present' for. This tradition has grown and developed, into what is known around the world as 'Kris Kringle'. In Dutch tradition, each person is gifted something unique, along with a personal, light-hearted poem. When it comes time to open these surprise presents, the poems are read aloud, but the author remains anonymous.
On the night of the 5th, Sinterklaas and his helpers deliver the children's presents. The next morning, on St Nicholas Day, much like at Christmas, children rise excitedly, to find their gifts. This also marks the departure of Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Piet, as they leave the Netherlands by steamboat.
Christmas Day is traditionally a much quieter celebration in the Netherlands, generally honored by a Church service and family meal.
However you celebrate, Claesen's Australia wishes you well for the festive season!