Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sinterklaas

Onze Lieve Vrouweplein at night
Same church, across the river
Well, Sinterklaas has come and gone. He is now back in Spain with his Zwarte Piet where he will enjoy a nice, peaceful, and hopefully warm Christmas. Unlike Santa Claus in the U.S., Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands by boat in November, travels around Holland giving presents to children before and on December 5th, and then returns back to Spain. Leading up to December 5th children put their shoes out to get little goodies from Sinterklaas like chocolate letters, pepernoten, chocolate coins, marzipan, and small presents among other things. On December 5th or Pakjesavond, children get the 'bigger' present delivery from Sinterklaas as well. Oh, and he rides a horse name Amerigo and dresses like the Pope.

And instead of Santa living in the North Pole with his elves, Sinterklaas has a group of helpers called Zwarte Piet or Black Peters who help him deliver toys and goodies throughout the Netherlands. (We call them Black Pete because they're really white men dressed in black face). Is your jaw dropping? Yes, white men dressed in black face. Most Americans I've met are like, "Um...what?" Apparently they're black from the soot in the chimney, but we all know that Sinterklaas' helpers were originally slaves. Don't worry, I've been told everybody gets along now and that Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Piet are friends. Hmmm. Really? It's not really the most politically correct way to celebrate Christmas, but it's tradition here. Okay...next topic.

Cadeaus van Sinterklaas!
On Saturday we went to Oirschot for a family gathering with all of Jaap's relatives. We exchanged gifts, played games, ate some yummy stampot, and even had a snowball fight! I feel so lucky to be welcomed into a Dutch family. I learn and experience so much more with Jaap and his family than if I was just an American living abroad. I feel very lucky. It's hard to be away from my family this time of year. I miss them so much. I wish that they were here with me to experience all of these new adventures!
snowball fight
dobbelspel
I also love the creativity that comes with Sinterklaas. Everyone takes turns opening gifts one at a time, you write poems for gifts, and make 'surprise' presents for your family as well. And even though we did not make our own surprise presents this year we did play a dobbelspel or a dice game with surprise gifts. (It's similar to a Yankee swap). We had a great Sinterklaas weekend. Oh....and I made kruidnoten. Lekker!
Snowy view from our balcony

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