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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Today is St. Nicholas day! Yeah! Our foreign exchange student Tess, from Holland, introduced us to St. Nicholas Day the year she lived with us and we have been celebrating it ever since. I wanted to share a little about the Dutch tradition.

For most children in Holland, the most important day during the Christmas Celebrations is 5th December, when Sinterklass (St. Nicholas) brings them their presents!
St. Nicholas' day is on the 6th December, but in Holland, the major celebrations are held on the 5th December. The name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklass.
On the morning of St. Nicholas' Day, Sinterklaas travels to a city or town in The Netherlands, wearing his red bishop's robes. He travels with his servant called Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). When Sinterklaas and Black Peter come ashore from the boat, all of the local church bells ring in celebration. Sinterklaas then leads a procession through the town, riding a white horse. If he has gone to Amsterdam that year he will to meet the Queen in the Palace.
On December 5th children leave clogs or shoes out to be filled with presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas's horse, they will be left some sweets. Children are told that Zwarte Piet keeps a record of all the things they have done in the past year in a book and that good children will get presents from Sinterklaas, but bad children will get chased by Zwarte Piet with a stick!! Dutch tradition says that he lives in Madrid,Spain and every year he chooses a different harbour to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him. Every town in Holland has a few Sinterklaas helpers, dressed the same as Sinter Klaas who help give the presents out.
If children are really lucky they might receive all their presents during the evening. This is called 'Sinterklaasavond' or 'Pakjesavond' (present evening). There might be a knock at the door and you might find a sack full of presents! 
To read more about St. Nicholas Day in Holland  go to http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/holland.shtml
So the way we celebrate it is I have the kids put their shoe on the fireplace (this year they put it on the table since we don't have a fireplace.) The little ones put a carrot in their shoe. They do this more because it is part of the Dutch tradition, not for the horse. In the morning they find candy and a present in their shoe. I buy the kids a new Christmas ornament each year. I try to find something that really represents them for the last year. Something that they were really into or really liked that year. This year I bought Donna a MP3 ornament, it says Music Moves Me. Ashley got a cell phone ornament that says TEXT ADDICT (she sent over 10,000 texts in 1 month!!), Kyle got a Ben 10 ornament, I bought Lacey a nutcracker ornament to commemorate her first ballet, and Lily got a little girl opening presents. So that is what I put in their shoe. Next year I would like to add a traditional Dutch dinner to our celebration.


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