A Dutch Tradition: Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas’ Eve)

Today is December 5th, and that means Saint Nicholas’ Eve is celebrated today in The Netherlands. It’s been a long time since I celebrated this Dutch tradition myself. I always enjoyed the chocolates, candies and cookies/biscuits that are available in supermarkets around this time of the year. Especially kruidnoten! The ones covered in chocolate are my favorites.

Sadly, Sinterklaas does not bring his delicious goods to Romania, so in the local supermarket I have been unable to find any such related items. I’m sure there are shops operated by Dutch people in Bucharest though, that do sell these types of sweets, chocolates and candies.

Who is Sinterklaas?

Sinterklaas is an elderly man with a long white beard. He is dressed in a red bishop’s robe and mitre. He is said to arrive in the Netherlands by steamship from Spain in mid-November. Sinterklaas is accompanied by his helpers, known as “Zwarte Pieten” (Black Petes). Although Sinterklaas is the one who knows which children deserve gifts and treats, the Zwarte Pieten are the ones doing all that amazing work! They help Sinterklaas in distributing all the great gifts to the children in The Netherlands.

But if Sinterklaas knows who has been a good boy or girl… he will also know who has been bad. Those children don’t just receive nothing – it is said they are taken to Spain!

Yes, this makes some children afraid of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Pieten carry a “birch rod” that they use to discipline children. And they also have the empty gifts bag – that’s how they carry the children to Spain as punishment for being bad!

Well, so they say. I’ve never seen or heard of any children actually gone missing after a visit by Sinterklaas or Zwarte Piet. ~_^

Pictured above: a ‘Sinterklaasletter’ – a letter made of chocolate. It is a typical Dutch tradition to give this chocolate letter as a present for Sinterklaas.

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