What to do with “Sinterklaas”?

Sinterklaas

Besides enjoying new American traditions here, there are also some Dutch ones we want to enjoy, but how to do it? In the Netherlands we have a tradition called Sinterklaas and he will arrive this weekend, which means back in the Netherlands the festivities around this holiday are starting! A friend of Marlo in the Netherlands told him Sinterklaas would not go to America to give him presents. So we said to him: “maybe we could write him a letter to tell him where we live and how he should get there?” However, being 3 months in the States now, we starting doubting how we would be able to integrate our “Sinterklaas” traditions here. In a lot of cities around the world there a communities that would celebrate it, with all the other Dutch expats. However, so far we didn’t meet any people from the Netherlands, hence no community over here. So what to do then…?

What is Sinterklaas? A little bit of explanation for my non-Dutch readers… Sinterklaas (also called Sint Nicolaas) is a traditional winter holiday figure in the Netherlands and the north of Belgium. Every year he is celebrated (December 5th) one day before Saint Nicholas his actual birthday. His helper and best friend is Black Peter (there are lots of discussions ongoing about that, but that’s not the discussion and intent for my blog!!). Sinterklaas arrives from Spain in a boat and has a white horse that can walk across rooftops, just like black peter and Sinterklaas. Every little kid puts his shoe at the chimney (or the window) and sings a song before they go to bed. When the kid then sleeps Sinterklaas comes and puts candy or a present in the shoe and on december 5th there is the big celebration where Black Peter and Sinterklaas will come to the door and deliver a bag full of gifts for the children.
Some say…: Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American war of independence, the inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town (New Amsterdam) reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city’s non-English past. In the 1770s the New York Gazetteer noted that the feast day of “St. a Claus” was celebrated “by the descendants of the ancient Dutch families, with their usual festivities.”

We actually chose not to celebrate the Sinterklaas tradition. The boys can speak more and more English, so we thought of what would happen if they would get presents on December 5th… They would go to school and tell to all the children about their presents and Sinterklaas. How confusing that must be for all of the kids in their classes that they don’t get presents from a man called Sinterklaas. The other way around, it would also be confusing for our boys when they wouldn’t get any presents at Christmas. So how should we do it right…? Marlo actually started to ask some questions to us about the subject.
Is Sinterklaas coming to America?
Are we getting presents?
How long will it take until he is here? ….

When children get the presents on December 5th there will be poems attached to some of them. In these poems are things that happened with them the last year and if they had been sweet enough throughout the year. For example I always said that I was smart, so Sinterklaas (my dad) made me a puzzle to solve before I could find my presents and then there was a poem that went on and on and on… so I learned a lesson there!! This year I made below Sinterklaas poem for my boys and my mom will send it from the Netherlands by mail. Sorry for my English followers but the poem is in Dutch for the boys…

Lieve Marlo en Nolan

Wat heb ik nu toch gehoord?
Jullie moesten van je ouders een paspoort
Niet voor een kleine reis
Dus nu ben ik helemaal van de wijs
Want jullie wonen nu in het verre Amerika
Niet te verwisselen met het continent Afrika
Maar weten jullie of je ouders wel hoe ver weg dat is
Ik kan je zeggen dat is niet mis
Met de pakjesboot ben ik al weken onderweg
Van spanje naar nederland is al een lijdensweg
Veel pieten worden zee ziek
En mijn pieten zijn allemaal uniek
Dus naar Amerika gaan is een lange lange weg
Die niet voor ons is weggelegd.
Ik heb daarom iets voor jullie gedaan…
Contact opgenomen met iemand die mij kan bijstaan
Want in amerika is er een andere goede man
Namelijk die lieve goede kerstman
Ik breng de cadeautjes in nederlands rond
En de kerstman doet dat aan de andere kant van de aardklont
Jullie mogen daarom dit jaar
Het is misschien een beetje raar
Je verlanglijstje naar de kerstman versturen
Dan hoef ik die niet meer door te sturen
De cadeautjes komen wel wat later zo rond 25 december
Maar dan hebben jullie nog wat extra tijd om lief te zijn in november!!
Nu hoop ik dat jullie het begrijpen
Want we moesten even ingrijpen
Geen cadeautjes omdat jullie zijn verhuisd
Dat vinden wij onjuist
Daarom deze actie
Want we komen niet in amerika met een taxi!
Geniet van jullie tijd in Rio rancho
met een mooie kerstmis lichtshow
Ga met mama ook nog wat pepernoten bakken
Want daar zullen jullie nu wel naar snakken! 

Liefs van Sint en Piet

It says that they can send their wish list to Santa Claus, because Sinterklaas asked him for his help. Even though I know there will be no right decision to make here and they will miss a big children’s holiday it feels so much better to do it this way. This way they get presents at the same time as all other kids here in America during the December period rather than to have two days with presents and them needing to explain to all their friends that Sinterklaas brought them. So we hope they cope with this change and love Christmas as much as they have loved Sinterklaas all those past years!


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