There is a new “Mach’ was” (“Do something”) challenge and again I am answering the call! The topic this time is ‘Mach was…mit dem Nikolaus’
In the US Santa Claus is the one who gives you gifts at Christmas, in Germany you have Nikolaus. Here in The Netherlands we have Sinterklaas and he is a big deal! He gives us gifts on the evening of December 5th and not on Christmas. 8 years ago a US friend of mine asked me to explain the concept of Sinterklaas to her and her children in writing. This “mach’ was” challenge is easy for me, as all I have to do is copy the text I wrote then and paste it here (with a few minor adjustments). 🙂 Here goes…
Sinterklaas is a big celebration in the Netherlands. It is celebrated on Saint Nicholas Eve on December 5th each year. Sint Nicholaas (shortened to Sinterklaas) is the patron saint of children. He comes to the Netherlands to celebrate his birthday (which is on December 6th) by giving all the Dutch children gifts on the eve before his birthday.
Sinterklaas has a white horse called Amerigo. Amerigo can even walk on the roofs of Dutch houses while Sinterklaas makes his rounds! Sinterklaas also has a lot of helpers called “Zwarte Pieten” (“Black Petes”). Zwarte Pieten are always funny and a little bit naughty, sort of like Santa’s elves in the US.
(There has been a discussion here the past few years on the Pieten being racist, but it’s not a discussion I want to enter into here… I’ll be happy to discuss in the comments should there be any questions).
Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands in mid-November every year by steamboat from Spain.
The arrival of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands is broadcast live on TV and every year he arrives in a different Dutch city or town. He is even officially welcomed by the mayor of that town! The Zwarte Pieten throw candy and little gingerbread ‘nuts’ and cookies into the cheering and singing crowds who have come to welcome Sinterklaas. In the weeks following his arrival you can often see Sinterklaas visiting town centers and malls and other places.
Between Sinterklaas’s arrival to the Netherlands in November and the evening of December 5th, Dutch children are allowed to put their shoes out next to the chimney once or twice a week (just one shoe for each child). They put a drawing in their shoe for Sinterklaas or a tangerine or a carrot for Amerigo and they sing a Sinterklaas song just before bedtime. The next morning they will find a little gift or candy (for example a chocolate initial) in their shoe!
The Zwarte Pieten are the ones who have come down the chimney in the night to fill the children’s shoes! Sometimes the Pieten will also have left their mark in the house and messed things up, like throwing over chairs, or littering tangerine peels. Naughy Pieten!
Sinterklaas has a big book with all the children’s names in it. In the book it says whether the children have been good or bad and whether they deserve to have gifts.
Then on December 5th “packages evening” arrives. Everyone in the house waits for Sinterklaas to bring gifts. They sing Sinterklaas songs to welcome Sinterklaas. Then there is very loud knocking on the door and when you go outside to look you will find a big bag of presents on your doorstep! Sometimes Sinterklaas even comes inside himself but often he is gone by the time you get to the door.
Some gifts are accompanied by little poems. After all the presents are unwrapped, you yell out “Thank you, Sinterklaas!” and sing a goodbye song for him. After “packages evening” Sinterklaas disappears again, going back to Spain to rest and prepare for next year…