Sinterklaas Part 2

In part 1 you could read about the tradition and history of Sinterklaas. In this part you will read more about the various customs related to the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration.

You can give presents nicely wrapped in special Sinterklaas wrapping paper, but there is also another way of giving the gifts. It is similar to the tradition of Secret Santa and in Dutch it is called ´lootjes trekken´. You do it with a group of people and you give a present anonymously to one of the people of the group. If you have lots of time and creativity you can decide to make a surprise. A surprise should be indeed a surprise, but a special one. You hide the presents in a homemade piece of handicraft work (the surprise) which has something to do with the person you are giving the presents to. For example, if someone loves football, you could make a football from paper and hide the gifts inside.

Sinterklaas is not only about giving presents, but also about making fun of one another. Therefore the tradition of giving presents is combined with writing a poem for the person you are giving a present to. The poem is called a Sinterklaasgedicht and is not about grand literature or poetry, but about fun. In the poem you can say nice things about the person, their hobbies, their interests and (funny) things that happened to him or her in the past year. The poem is a great opportunity to make fun of the person, but in a nice way!

Children only get sweets and presents when they behave nicely… at least, so tells the tradition. And in order to be nice children sing special Sinterklaas songs. There are several songs, varying from traditional to modern. So singing the songs is a way to receive small presents or sweets. A popular custom for children is to place their shoe in front of the fire place or near the front door. They sing a song in the evening and during the night they hope that they will find something nice in their shoe the next morning. If Sinterklaas (their parents of course…) heard their singing, he (they) will put something in the shoe.

The sweets and treats which are eaten during Sinterklaas are just delicious. First of all there is strooigoed, the sweets you can strew. Strooigoed contains gingerbread nuts, little meringues and confectionery and looks like the picture. Besides that there is gingerbread in many different forms, like small cookies or a large gingerbread man. And the most important delicacy: the chocolate letter (see the picture). Everyone, no matter whether you are a child or grown-up, gets the first letter of his or her name in chocolate. The tradition of giving edible letters started in the nineteenth century. First the letters were made of dough and later on, around 1900, chocolate letters became more popular.


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