Christmas traditions from Holland are a favorite in our household. Last week we celebrated Sinterklass on December 6th. My husbands side of the family is from Holland and love to share their holiday traditions with us and our kids. Sinterklass, or St. Nicholas’ Day is December 6th, and the eve, December 5th is the most celebrated day. Because that is the day that he leaves presents!
The second saturday in November are when the festivities begin. That is when St. Nicholas arrives on his boat from Spain. He then spends the next few weeks traveling throughout the many cities with his 6-9 Zwarte Pete’s, or “black Pete’s”. The church bells ring when he arrives off the boat on his white horse in celebration.
The children will leave out their shoes by the fireplace or windows in hopes of getting little treats, marzipan, or small toys.
At the Dutch celebration we have here, they throw little spiced cookies out for the children called pepernoten, and each child will get a chocolate letter ‘S’ as well as a small gift from St. Nicholas. There are Sinterklass songs that the children will sing to invite St. Nicholas to come and see them, and dressed in his long red robes he enters with his sack of presents and book with the children’s names written in it.
There are so many variations to celebrating this holiday, and the stories I’ve heard about celebrating in Holland sound amazing. The towns will all help to make it special for the kids, leaving ski tracks in the snow to make it look as if St. Nicholas came through, and the news stations will track his progress through the country.
My favorite part of it for my family is being able to celebrate the idea of “Santa” or St. Nicholas but not as a myth. We still do presents on Christmas as well, but the story of St. Nicholas (though many accounts vary) is rooted deeply in the culture and traditions and I want to pass this part of my children’s heritage on to them. There is still a special element to it, but we can leave the more mythical part aside and still have this warm family tradition.