>Giveaway: Sinterklaas Treats!!!

>Guess what….. It’s time for my first give-away. Why??? Because Sinterklaas arrived in Holland today: exactly 3 weeks before it’s his birthday: the 5th of December. I’m always a giving person, but around Sinterklaas and Christmas I tend to be even more generous.

First let me explain you a little bit about Sinterklaas (info from The Holland Ring, adapted by me):

The Feast of Sinterklaas is an annual event which has been uniquely Dutch and Flemish for centuries. It is is celebrated nationwide on the 5th of December by young and old, christian and non-christian, and without any religious overtones.

Sinterklaas is a kind of benevolent old man, whose feast day is observed by exchanging gifts and making good-natured fun of each other. It so happens that the legend of St. Nicholas is based on historical fact. He did actually exist. He lived from 271 A.D. to December 6th, 342 or 343. His 4th century tomb in the town of Myra, near the city of Anatolia in present-day Turkey, has even been dug up by archaeologists.

This is his story: Born of a wealthy family, Nicholas was brought up as a devout Christian. When his parents died of an epidemic, he distributed his wealth among the poor and became a priest.Later he became Archbishop of Myra, and it is from here that the fame of his good deeds began to spread across the Mediterranean.

All Dutch children know that Sinterklaas (the name is a corruption of Sint Nikolaas) lives in Spain. Exactly why he does remains a mystery, but that is what all the old songs and nursery rhymes say. Whatever the case may be, in Spain he spends most of the year recording the behaviour of all children in a big red book, while his helper Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) stocks up on presents for next December 5th.

In the first weeks of November, Sinterklaas gets on his white horse, Peter (“Piet”) swings a huge sack full of gifts over his shoulder, and the three of them board a steamship headed for the Netherlands. Around mid-November they arrive in a harbour town – a different one every year – where they are formally greeted by the Mayor and a delegation of citizens. Their parade through town is watched live on television by the whole country and marks the beginning of the “Sinterklaas season”.

The old bishop and his helpmate are suddenly everywhere at once. At night they ride across Holland’s’ rooftops and Sinterklaas listens through the chimneys to check on the children’s behaviour. Piet jumps down the chimney flues and makes sure that the carrot or hay the children have left for the horse in their shoes by the fireplace is exchanged for a small gift or some candy. During the day, Sinterklaas and Piet are even busier, visiting schools, hospitals, department stores, restaurants, offices and many private homes. Piet rings doorbells, scatters sweets through the slightly opened doors and leaves basketfuls of presents by the front door.

How do they manage to be all over the Netherlands at once? This is thanks to the so-called “hulp-Sinterklazen”, or Sinterklaas helpers, who dress up like the bishop and Black Peter and help them perform their duties. Children who become wise to these simultaneous “Sint-sightings” are told that since Sinterklaas cannot indeed be in two places at once, he gets a little help from his uncanonized friends.

The Dutch are busy too – shopping for, and more importantly, making presents. Tradition demands that all packages be camouflaged in some imaginative way, and that every gift be accompanied by a fitting poem.

This is the essence of Sinterklaas: lots of fun on a day when people are not only allowed, but expected, to make fun of each other in a friendly way. Children, parents, teachers, employers and employees, friends and co-workers tease each other and make fun of each others’ habits and mannerisms. Another part of the fun is how presents are hidden or disguised. Recipients often have to go on a treasure hunt all over the house, aided by hints, to look for them. They must be prepared to dig their gifts out of the potato bin, to find them in a jello pudding, in a glove filled with wet sand, in some crazy dummy or doll. Working hard for your presents and working even harder to think up other peoples’ presents and get them ready is what the fun is all about.

The original poem accompanying each present is another old custom and a particularly challenging one. Here the author has a field day with his subject (the recipient of the gift). Foibles, love interests, embarrassing incidents, funny habits and well-kept secrets are all fair game. The recipient, who is the butt of the joke, has to open his/her package in public and read the poem aloud amid general hilarity. The real giver is supposed to remain anonymous because all presents technically come from Sinterklaas, and recipients say out loud “Thank you, Sinterklaas!”, even if they no longer believe in him.

On the day of the 5th, most places of business close a bit earlier than normal. The Dutch head home to a table laden with the same traditional sweets and baked goods eaten for St. Nicholas as shown in the 17th-century paintings of the Old Masters. The emphasis is on originality and personal effort rather than the commercial value of the gift, which is one reason why Sinterklaas is such a delightful event for young and old alike.

It were the Dutch settlers who brought St. Nicholas over to New Amsterdam – USA. So it could be a possiblity that America actually owes the cheery saint of Christmas to Holland 🙂 .

So for my first giveaway I thought Sinterklaas would be a nice theme!! I will send the winner a package containing some typical treats for Sinterklaas:

  • a chocolate letter by the Dutch brand Droste in a letter of their choice;
  • a bag of pepernoten or kruidnoten by the Dutch brand Bolletje. Pepernoten are typically Dutch spicy dough cookies. They have a cinnamony, spicy taste, and it’s a tradition to throw them around the room, so your kids can collect them! Or you obviously can eat them straight out of the bag.
  • and whatever else I will find…..

By now you are probably woundering what you have to do to become the lucky winner?? Leave me a comment on what you think of the Dutch feast of Sinterklaas and ofcourse let me know what letter you would like to receive if you won!

The deadline of this giveaway is 10 pm on the 20th of November (European Time), so be sure to post your comment before that time!!


18 Responses to “>Giveaway: Sinterklaas Treats!!!”

  1. Marie Says:

    >Marthe, I really enjoyed reading about your Dutch Customs. I love the idea of Sinterklaas. My step mother was Dutch and she made the best olliebollen (spelling??) at Christmas time. Just gorgeous! That and windmill cookies! (Speculaas?)

  2. Nancy Says:

    >I think that would be so fantastic to share the traditions of the Dutch with my Granddaughter, so she would get to know how other countries celebrate the holidays! I would want a “G” letter for her name, Grace! I can hardly wait to tell her all about Sinterklaas!

  3. Jenna Says:

    >Of course it sounds so fun! It’s always interesting to hear about what different cultures and people do for the holidays. I like the leaving of hay/carrots for the horses~

  4. Kristin Says:

    >Marthe, what a wonderful holiday! I love how you have to hide/disguise the gifts, and I love that you have to write a poem to go along with it! I am not much of a poet, but I have always liked Haiku, so here goes:Sinterklaas magic.Gifts for hiding and sharing.Fun for young and old.

  5. CB Says:

    >What a fun idea! Loved reading about your Sinterklaas Feast. I bet its so fun to search for hidden gifts. T does that with my gifts every xmas and the chase is such a fun part of receiving a gift. I think I’d have to be a little selfish and ask for a chocolate letter “C” for my name. HAHA. I hope I win!/Clara

  6. ♥ Stevi Says:

    >Marthe- I love Sinterklaas! My grandmother was a Van Aken and I can trace her family back to the late 1600’s when my great-great-great-great grandfather Marinus came to the US from the Nederlands!I would Love an “M” for Morgan…..thank you!

  7. Natashya Says:

    >Wow, I had no idea of the roots of the traditions. What fun! Sounds like you guys are a lot more fun and free than Canadians, you seem to have a great time. If I win, I would like an “M” for my daughter Melody. Cheers, Happy Holidays.

  8. Jacque Says:

    >Wow, kind of like double Christmas!Thanks so much for taking the time to put this post together. How fun and interesting to learn about other cultures. Sounds like a wonderful holiday 🙂

  9. Melissa Says:

    >Marthe, thanks for sharing about this custom. I like the idea of being able to tease people for a day. I’d have a field day with my hubby! 🙂 And if I won, I’d gobble down those cookies!!

  10. Liz Says:

    >This was fascinating to read! I know a bit about Christmas/ Santa Claus celebrations in other countries, but I had never heard of Sinterklaas. It sounds like a blast–any holiday that encourages people to joke with coworkers and family and hide gifts is okay by me! If I were lucky enough to win, I’d want a chocolate “E” for my name. Thanks for the fun info and giveaway, Marthe!

  11. Peggy Says:

    >Marthe – thanks so much for sharing that Sinterklaas history! Interesting reading about your customs and comparing to our country’s Santa Claus. It sounds like you have a wonderful time. I would love a chocolate “C” for my husband. He needs a bit of cheering up right now! I would also love to sample some of those goodie laden tables you serve in Holland! Yum.

  12. Pamela Says:

    >Thank you for sharing all of this very neat information about Sinterklaas. I love all the history behind it. If I were to win, the letter “P” would be my choice, for our family’s last name.

  13. Kimberly Says:

    >I love learning about traditions in other countries! Thank you so much for sharing this. I love that there is so much involvement on the giver’s part (disguise the gift, write a poem); it makes sense that this would still be a delightful holiday even for adults.I would like a K! Thank you for hosting this giveaway!

  14. Cathy Says:

    >This was so fun to read, Marthe! I will have to tell my kids about these traditions. They are ALL about Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas!) I think I would request the letter C, for Christmas!

  15. PheMom Says:

    >Thanks for all the background information. I only knew a small part of that. It sounds like a lot of fun! I especially like the ‘treasure hunt’ aspect of getting your presents. I can only imagine the teasing would back fire in my family though. LOL! By the way – want to know what is funnier than that we are the same cupcake? I took the Austen quiz a while ago too (and just retook it) and got the same as you too! 🙂

  16. natalia Says:

    >Dear Marthe just in time ! I love SinterKlaas I met him when I came to visit my friend Ellen few years ago and loved al the stories about it. Ellen’s husband Rick made me laugh a lot telling me the stories of when his friends told him sinterklaas didn’t exist and he would say:”but I saw him !!! I read his big book and he gave me pepernoten !”

  17. MacDuff Says:

    >This is why I love the Netherlands!!! I’ve always had this really strong desire to visit there – it’s like it should be my secret home. And it’s not just about the bicycles, the canals, the raw fish. It’s the footwear, the windmills, and PIET!!!!! You didn’t tell me you had PIET!!! How cool is it that you have ONE horse whereas we have eight reindeer and Rudolph. The Dutch are vastly superior to us Americans.And a whole holiday where you tease each other? AND TREASURE HUNTS????? Marthe, I’m moving.

  18. Kassy Says:

    >What a great story! It’s always interesting to hear about different cultures and traditions! I would want a letter “G” for out last name…then I’ll share with my husband 🙂

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