Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sinterklaas Day

Sinterklaas Day, or St. Nicholas Day, is a unqiue Dutch tradition. Sinterklaas is always dressed as the bishop he once was, but he isn't thought of religiously, instead as a kind, old man, whose feast day is observed by exchanging gifts and making good-natured fun of each other.
Sinterklaas lives in Spain and there spends most of the year recording the behavior of Dutch kids while his helper, Black called because of the chimney soot he gets on himself visiting homes...stocks up presents. In mid-November, "Sinterklaas season" kicks off when the patron saint of sailors, merchants, and of course, children, arrives to a harbor town in the Netherlands where he is greeted by the Mayor and all the townspeople and then he parades through the town on his white horse handing out gingerbread cookie treats to everyone.
In Amsterdam, Sinterklaas helpers -- the Black Piets -- repell from the walls of department stores!
Children leave carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas's horse and when Black Piet visits, they get a small gift or some candy in exchange.
All gifts given on Sinterklaas Day must be wrapped in a creative way and have a poem for the recipient attached. The giver is supposed to remain anonymous as all presents technically come from Sinterklaas.
It's like an early Christmas Eve, as most people get out of work early and a big dinner is served with chocolate letters - the first initial of each person's name - marking their place setting.

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