5 December 2005

Sinterklaas 5 December

This evening, most Dutch families will celebrate Sinterklaas with presents, poems and candies. It is a very intimate family tradition.

Sinterklaas arrives in each Dutch town on a big white horse and has a big red book with the names of all children and how they have behaved over the past year. If a child has been good, they get a present and a chocolate letter of the initial from their first name with traditional candies and cookies. If a child has been naughty, he expects to get "lashed" with the branches from "Black Pete", one of Sinterklaas' assistants - and then get stuffed into Sinterklaas' bag and taken to Spain for the year to learn how to behave.

Every child knows this will never happen, but parents use the threat anyway because it is part of their tradition.

Grown-ups give each other a "review" of the past year in rhyme, which gives them a chance to say what they've wanted to say all year long about each other.

St. Nickolas was originally a bishop in the town of Mira in southern Turkey hundreds of years ago. He was left an orphan with a large inheritance, which he unselfishly spent on all the people and, particularly, children in need.

Black Pete is actually a bit of a politically incorrect character in these days with his painted black face.

I can't wait to share the poems tonight!

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