S is for Sinterklaas

It's Dec 5 today, St Nicholas Eve, the day all Dutch children have been waiting for, because that's the day St Nicholas and his helpers deliver the
long awaited gifts to children who have been good ;-) Our eldest son works in Singapore and asked us to bring some of the traditional goodies associated with St Nicholas with us so he could give some St Nicholas presents to his Singaporean colleagues. So we've brought rather a lot of chocolate letters and marzipan piggies with us and have tried to keep them cool in the tropics, and keeping the various border control people puzzled :-) The son has been delivering them today and I have given out some more to my friends today too.

I'll try to explain this Dutch/Belgian/German tradition, St Nicholas was a Catholic bishop from Turkey who was based in Spain. He was well known for being kind and generous, giving away his cloak even to somebody who needed it. The Dutch tradition is that he comes to The Netherlands somewhere in November from Spain by boat (a steamboat)  with his helpers, who were traditionally Mores, as parts of Spain had been conquered by the Mores and there were many of them left in Spain after Spain was liberated. The helpers are called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). They were his helpers, servants if you want, certainly not slaves (trying to explain this because for some years now there is a big controversy about this and gradually Black Petes will become something else because of an everchanging muticultural and colourful world, but it's hard to change traditions and it can't happen overnight)

The arrival of St Nicholas by boat with all his presents (in a different port every year) is a national event, broadcast on tv. There's usually a story going on about the presents getting lost or  something concerning his white horse Amerigo, who is capable of riding on the roofs of houses, something to keep the children in suspense for the next two to three weeks about the fate of the presents. They will make drawings, sing songs, and put out their shoes with some bread or a carrot for Amerigo every night in the hope they might get some little gift meanwhile. But the big day is today or rather tonight, because that is when in most Dutch households with young children a bag with big presents will be delivered ! Once the children get older the tradition changes to something else, older children and adults will buy presents for each other, optionally crafting them into something completely different to make it more of a surprise and if they are really good they'll also make an appropriate rhyme for at least one of the presents,  preferably a rhyme that will be a bit humoristic. It's a great family affair. Originally it also meant that only after Dec 5 Christmas decorations would go up in shops and town centres and traditionally no gifts were given at Christmas. Commerce has stepped in though ;-)  People immigrating from Europe to the US then took these traditions with them and somehow St Nicholas the bishop turned into Santa Claus bringing gifts at Christmas ....

We'll be on the plane home to The Netherlands overnight, who knows if we'll find some surprises for us at home tomorrow morning ...

Though not that small still tagging it for TinyTuesday, as a Dutch seasonal entry with thanks to Dbifulco for hosting !

Thanks very much for your kind comments, stars and even a fave for yesterday's mono scifi image :-)

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