My parents were not only here for Thanksgiving, but their first Sinterklaas, as well! It was nice to celebrate a traditional American holiday followed by a Dutch holiday.
A bit of background for anyone new to Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas in the Netherlands is celebrated the 5th of December (and the 6th in Belgium). There are a few differences between the Dutch Sinterklaas and the American Santa Claus. Although the Sint brings gifts to the “braaf” or good children, he is much more strict than Santa. If you are bad, not only do you receive a “roe”, or a cane to be whipped with, but also you will be taken from your parents and home in Sinterklaas’ bag and brought back to Spain, where the Sint lives!
Also, Sinterklaas does not have elves to help him with the days leading up to Christmas, instead he has Zwarte Pieten, black companions that arrive with him on his steamboat from Spain to help distribute treats. Although originally black to represent the Moorish people who once occupied the Netherlands, they are now black because they are covered in soot from the chimneys!
Koen’s family celebrates by drawing names, writing poems, and making surprises for everyone. I love drawing a name and writing poems and creating the “surprise”, or handmade gift that embodies some attribute of the person. It makes it that much more special than just giving a gift because of the time and effort spent.