Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Politically Incorrect Christmas

In The Netherlands, Sinterklaas Eve (St Nicholas Eve) is celebrated on Debember 5th, the day before Sinterklaas' birthday, with much celebration. Sinterklass is an older man with long white hair, a beard, and dresses much like a pope. He is also said to be a fairly serious man. The Zwarte Pieten on the other hand are a bit more whimsical. They dress much like a jester, with the addition of an afro and blackface (yep, blackface). Zwarte Pieten jump around and act quite silly (even in the middle of a church service).

Weeks before his birthday Sinterklaas travels to The Netherlands from Spain (where he lives) by boat with his helpers (slaves), the Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). Below is the announcement from our local paper letting everyone know when Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten will arive in our little town.

For the next few weeks, he travels the country by horse to find out if the children have been well behaved or not. During this time children put their shoe near the fireplace with a bit of hay or a carrot for his horse. In the morning the good little children will find a small treat in its place. The treats are usually similar to the following: peppernoten (small spice cookie), chocolate formed into the letter of your first name, or pastries. This can continue each night until the 5th. Now, if you have been naughty watch out because the Zwarte Pieten will spank you with a stick and might even toss you in their burlap sack and take you back to Spain (I couldn't make up this stuff if I tried!). In adition to these treats there are also gifts received but only on the 5th The gifts for the children are delivered by Sinterklaas to your front door, but of course he does not have time to wait and hand deliver them so he rings the bells and leaves them on the stoop. Gifts are also exchanged by adults on Sinterklaas Eve. Names are drawn so only one gift is brought by each person. Your present must be wrapped creatively (anything but wrapping paper) and should have a poem attached. The poem cantains hints about the gift and lyrics making fun of the reciever. This poem is read aloud before opening the gift.

 To view better pictures of Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet, click HERE.


  1. This is amazing. Also, you guys crack me up.

  2. Thanks! It is a bit crazy. There are even Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet costumes for little kids (with black face paint, of course). I need to start taking my camera to the store so I can share some of the Sinterklaas spirit with everyone. :)