It all starts off with the arrival of Sinterklaas, called the Sinterklaas intocht! This takes place about two to three weeks before the actual holiday. This is when Saint Nicholas comes from Spain to the Netherlands to prepare for the holidays. I was actually surprised to see that even the villages host an event for this, separately from the larger cities near them.
The Zwarte Pieten handed out pepernoten to the children (they are a small cookie that tastes a bit like gingerbread).
Instead, Sinterklaas’ horse and carriage were significantly more interesting, so my son hung out with our neighbours by the horses.
Sinterklaas then rode off on the horse led carriage, with the helpers and majority of villagers following. The helpers had hidden all sorts of presents (usually drawings from the children to the Sinterklaas) throughout the village. The kids helped to hunt them down.
Meanwhile, my son enjoyed walking hand in hand with his girlfriends 😉
And I saw this cool bike.
Random photo- the reason why all of my stiletto heels have been ruined: the dreaded cobblestone road.
I didn’t wear heels on our exploration, and we had a great time walking around the village with Mr. Toddler!
What usually happens after the arrival of Sinterklaas, is that kids will lay their shoes out the night before. In the morning, they can find small gifts. Families do this bit differently, but we bought a bunch of small cars, and have been leaving them in Mr. Toddler’s shoes on the weekends. We will do this until 5 December. Some families leave a carrot out (for Saint Nicholas’ horses).
We also have a fun celebration with my in-laws, before or after the actual holiday. My husband and I then celebrate the day off together. This year, we had the larger celebration on 22 November, the same day that we did all of the above.
We pick the names of family members from an envelope and buy gifts only for the people we pick. We make a ‘surprise’ for them and write a poem about them as if from Sinterklaas.
And then eat tons of mashed potatoes!
The top ones had saurkraut in them, and the bottom had kale! These take mashed potatoes to a whole new level! Loaded mashed potatoes are absolutely my favourite Dutch dishes, and my favourite dishes that my mother in law cooks! Delicious!
This really is a fun holiday and we’re making up our own traditions in our mixed culture home! It’s been a lot of fun to discover our different ways of doing things and the rhythm that works well for my husband and me.
- What kinds of traditions do you have for the holidays?
- Do you celebrate Saint Nicholas’ Day?
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