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Sinterklaas avond; a fine Dutch tradition

By Niels Lameijer on Dec 05, 2009 at 12:00 AM in General, My Life


Sinterklaas is a traditional Winter-holiday figure in the Netherlands, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve (December 5). The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children.Sinterklaas

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas' Eve (December 5) is the chief occasion for gift-giving. The evening is called"sinterklaasavond" or "pakjesavond" ("presents evening"). In the Netherlands, children receive their presents on this evening. On the days preceding December 5, children put their shoe in front of the fireplace, then go to bed, and find the presents in their shoe in the morning.

Each family has their own traditions when it come the celebrating Sinterklaas. In my family we all come together on December 5th to celebrate Sinterklaas-avond. We all (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins) bring the presents we bought for each other, and put them in a huge pile. Then we fill the evening (and the early morning hours) with unwrapping, laughter and good Dutch food (pea soup , haring etc).

In addition to the gift exchange we each draw a name of one other relative and make him/her a "surprise", themed around some odd event that happened to this person that year. In a poem accompanying this, usually handmade, object we typically fully mock, tease and ridicule the person. This is by far the most hilarious part of the evening.

I love that our family keeps the Sinterklaas-tradition alive and I really miss not being with them on this December 5!

Sinterklaas and Santa Claus:

Sinterklaas by the way, is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American War of Independence the inhabitants of New York City, (former Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam) reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city's non-English past. The name Santa Claus supposedly derived from older Dutch 'Sinte Klaas.'

If you would like to read more about Sinterklaas, click here for a good source.