A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Fellow readers, I hope you have behaved this year.
Sinterklaas has arrived in town.
“Sinter who?” you might be asking yourselves. Well, he is definitely not your ordinary guy-in-red-who-gives-presents-around-the-end-of-the-year. No Santa Claus, Nikolaus or Papai Noel. It’s Sinterklaas all the way!
He comes to The Netherlands around mid-November on boat from Spain, where he lives during the year (if you though North Pole, you guessed wrong, why spend all year long in the cold if you can enjoy a nice, warm weather!?).
Accompanied by his helper Zwarte Piet , he stays around until the 5th of December, when he leaves all the good children a nice present and goodies. If you’re bad, all you’re in for are some sticks and in extreme cases, Sinterklaas will take you back to Spain with him!
All around, children leave shoes out at night with a carrot (a small treat for Sinterklaas’ horse – or you expected him to just walk around?) to find in return a goodie in the morning. And the beauty of it is that this is not only on the 5th: From the day he arrives in The Netherlands, he might be around your home and leave you something until he leaves. However, don’t be greedy! He has to visit all children, so don’t expect him to drop by your house every day.
Also on the 5th people generally exchange presents, but with a twist. You should wrap it in a way to make it a surprise, so people can’t guess what it is from a first sight (my friend told me he once wrapped a book to make it look like a bottle- how he did that, it’s probably a Sinterklaas miracle). And it does not stop there. You also write a little poem to accompany the gift, usually about the person receiving the gift and giving hints on what is behind those layers and layers of wrapping paper. So guys, get those creative hats on, as the Dutch are natural poets!
And not only children, but the whole city gets ready for Sinterklaas : His arrival is celebrated in many places ( In Leiden, on the 24/11 this year – write it down in your agendas!); Trees are decorated with Christmas lights; Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas appear in several ornaments and most importantly, candies abound in all shops – Kruidnoten, Speculaas , Suikerbeesten, Chocolate frogs and mice, Chocolate letters fill the shelves (However, I haven’t found any chocolate Ys. Have my friends bought them all ?).
So, if you behaved, get those shoes and carrots ready and start thinking of your poem.
If you haven’t, you still have time to make it up! You definitely do not want to miss out on all the Sinterklaas goodies!