Many places in Europe have their own Christmas traditions, and the Dutch have Sinterklaas! Feel like throwing a dash of Dutch to your Christmas festivities this year? We’re here to help!
Who is Sinterklaas?
Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, is an old bishop who goes to the Netherlands every year in November. From his arrival until his birthday on December 5th, the entire country celebrates him!
Children are told Sinterklaas sails from Spain to The Netherlands with a boat full of gifts. If they were good for the year, they can expect presents as a reward for good behaviour. Sinterklaas leaves small presents and sweets in their shoes a week before his birthday, and then delivers the big presents on December 5th!
Arrival of Sinterklaas
The arrival of Sinterklaas and his helpers, also known as Zwarte Pieten, is a big event. Many children wait with their parents for his arrival along the river, as Sinterklaas and his helpers Pieten arrive by boat.
>> Sinterklaas will arrive on Saturday 17th of November 2018 in Rotterdam.
To do: Go to Willemsplein around 12.15 pm. If you see the boat arriving, scream ‘Sinterklaaaaaas’ and wave to him in the hope he sees you!
Put your shoe by the fireplace
In the evening, everyone puts their shoe next to the fireplace (or radiator) in the hope Sinterklaas, together with his ‘Zwarte Pieten’, comes at night and fills it with presents and sweets.
To do: Put you shoe next to the fireplace. Maybe you can put a carrot in your shoe for his horse, a sweet message, or a wishlist for Pakjesavond on the 5th of December?? You can also sing traditional jolly Sinterklaas songs, so that his helper Pieten will hear you from the rooftops.
‘Wie zoet is krijgt lekkers’, literally means ‘who is sweet, gets sweets’. Typical Sinterklaas food and sweets are: kruidnoten (mini ginger biscuits), taai taai dolls (chewy aniseed biscuits), (gevuld) speculaas, marsepein, roomboterletter, borstplaat, schuimpjes (candy) and a lot of chocolate letters. The chocolate letter especially is a typical Sinterklaas present and very lekker to eat!
Together pepernoten and schuimpjes form ‘strooigoed’, which is thrown into the room by Pieten when they bring presents. Usually an invisible hand of a parent or neighbour that knocks on the door throws in the strooigoed for the children.
To do: If you want to enjoy Sinterklaas in the most Dutch way then buy a big bag of Sinterklaas sweets and hot chocolate and get together with family and friends to enjoy the occasion.
Most Dutch people celebrate his birthday on the evening of the 5th of December. The kids of course get the most presents… but Sint definitely won’t forget the adults. With funny poems, Sinterklaas will put into words his thoughts on the person from the past year. Those poems & surprises (like the special wrapping for presents, for example if someone has a new house, the present will be hand-made to look like a house from paper), are most of the time hilarious and the Dutch people put a lot of work into it to create a good poem and gift.
Dobbelen is a game Dutch people play on Pakjesavond on the 5th of December.
You only need dice and presents to play it, and it is not limited to a maximum amount of people. Each person takes their turn to roll the dice and whatever number shows up defines the rule you got to follow. As there are only six numbers you only have 6 rules.
To do: Celebrate Sinterklaas’ birthday! Collect a group of friends and all buy a small (ridiculous) small present. Let the dobbelen begin!
- Take a present from the table
- Unwrap the present
- All presents to the right
- All presents to the left
- Change present with another person
- Choose two people to make them swap presents
If everyone has a present, change rule one for: “If the dice falls of the table, shots for everyone”.
Written by: Hostel ROOM Rotterdam