208. A Dutch Christmas by Marijke Oudegeest

A Dutch Christmas. Photo by Marijke.

The actual day is December 5. The black attendant is there to help Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is a Spanish bishop and his attendant is Moorish. Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) spanks children (a little of course) who have been bad. This is all done in good humour. However, kids are always somewhat scared especially when they know they have been behaving badly.  I actually have a photo of my son Hans, when he was a little boy, crying on the lap of Sinterklaas.


Bata Shoe Museum. Image©Ruth Lor Malloy 2011

Several days before December 5, children leave carrots, bread and water for Sinterklaas’ white horse. They put these in a shoe in front of the fireplace. If they have been good, they will find a present in their shoe in the morning; e.g. a chocolate letter, a Speculaas doll cookie, etc. Black Peter comes down the chimney to bring these. Sinterklaas rides his horse over the roof tops of the houses.

Gifts on December 5 are not as serious as in Canada. It is a fun festivity with poems, some poking fun at what people do during the year. We search through the house to find our presents. Children who still believe in Sinterklaas, will get presents, but nothing as expensive as is given here for Christmas. As I said, children are always a bit worried when Sinterklaas comes. Older children of course hope to get their favourite present. They leave wish lists in their shoe by the fireplace and sing special songs at the top of their lungs!

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