Online sightseeing of The Netherlands.
Sinterklaas is one of the sources of the holiday figure of Santa Claus in North America. Sinterklaas is the name of a character and a holiday named for Saint Nicholas, a real-life Catholic bishop who was known for his kindness to children. Every year he arrives in The Netherlands in November to celebrate his name day (6 December) on Saint Nicholas’ eve (5 December).
What does Sinterklaas & Zwarte Piet look like?
Sinterklaas, the legendary man, looks like an old wise bloke with long white hair and similar beard. He is dressed like a bishop and has a golden (shepherd) staff in his hand. He also carries a large leather bound book, with gold print, in which it is written which children have been good and which have not. He rides a white horse called Americo.
Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is a servant of Sinterklaas, usually an adolescent in blackface with black curly hair, dressed up like a 17-th century page in a colorful dress, often with a lace collar, and donning a feathered cap. Why he has a black face? Who know? Could be because he’s coming from Africa or because he’s climbing through to many dirty black chimneys.
The Dutch don’t see Zwarte Piet being black as a racist thing. Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet are just two characters from an old tradition, which both offer great value to the experience for children.
Arrival of Sinterklaas
Every year another Dutch village along a river or sea, is chosen to welcome Sinterklaas and his black helpers (Black Peters / Zwarte Pieten) who arrive on a steam boat from Spain. The bring along presents and special sweets. The week before arrival there is a special Sinterklaas-journal on television where the kids can follow the journey of Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten. There is always something happening, which makes it very exciting if Sinterklaas will make it to The Netherlands ok.
Speculaas – dough does not rise much. Dutch and Belgian versions are baked with light brown (beet) sugar and baking powder. Spices used in speculoos are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. Most Speculoos versions are made from white flour, brown sugar, butter and spices.
Taai-taai -The taste is similar to speculaas, but also has anis seed in it. It is a bit chewy and often comes in the shape of Sinterklaas or Zwarte Piet.
Pepernoten – literally, ‘pepper nuts’. They are light brown, round shaped, and made from the same ingredients as taai-taai (flour, sugar, anise, cinnamon, and clove) and are fairly chewy, though they harden gradually when exposed to the air.
Kruidnoten – literally, ‘spice nuts’, are harder, have a different color and shape then Pepernoten. Although sometimes they are called pepernoten. and are made using the same ingredients used for making speculaas.
Chocolate letters – As a gift large chocolate letters are given to each person. You always give the first letter of someone’s first name.
A particularly distinct custom associated with pepernoten is throwing them in handfuls through the room so children can look for them. Originally this is an ancient fertility symbol (like a farmer sowing seeds) not unlike throwing rice at a marriage.
Place shoe in front of chimney – From the arrival of Sinterklaas until his birthday celebration on 5 December, kids can place an empty shoe in front of the chimney (or window) before the go to bed. The often leave presents like drawings, carrot and water for the horse of Sinterklaas and their wishlist for Sinterklaas’ eve in it. Next morning, if they have behaved well, the kids gifts will be exchanged by the Zwarte Pieten by
Saint Nicholas’ eve (5 December) – Whole families get together after diner start singing Sinterklaas songs. At a certain moment there will be some strong pounding on the door. Pepernoten are thrown in the room. There is Sinterklaas with a few Zwarte Pieten bringing a big bag of gifts. As Sinterklaas cannot be everywhere at the same time, sometimes the bag is left by the Zwarte Pieten at front door.
Surprises with poems – once the kids find out Sinterklaas is not real, Sinterklaas is celebrated slightly different. When Sinterklaas arrives, everyone in the family draws a paper with the name of an other family member on it. For this person they buy a present. The present has te be hidden in a surprise and a poem about the person needs to be written. The surprise can be a house, car, doll etc, anything that resembles the present and/or the poem.
On December 6th Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten leave The Netherlands unnoticed.