Dutch Surprise

29 Nov

It’s that Sinterklaas time of year again.  I have three really excited children in the house who have been busy writing letters and making drawings to send to the Sint (even my two oldest who don’t believe anymore).

Last week Sinterklaas arrived by boat on Lago Maggiore.  There were hundreds of little Dutch speaking kids (and a few locals as well) that got to shake his hand and fool around with the Zwarte Pieten who handed out the traditional pepernoten and candies.  The parents got to drink hot mulled wine and eat thick pea soup to keep warm while the kids ran around in a Sinterklaas frenzy.

And now the kids have to wait until the 6th of December for him to come and leave gifts and lots of chocolate.  It’s the favorite day of the year for all Dutch speaking children.

Another tradition that the Dutch have at this time of year is called “surprise” (pronounced sur-preeze).  People buy a gift for someone and then write a poem and wrap up the gift in creative ways.  The person receiving the gift has to guess who it’s from.  It’s a lovely tradition that has so much more meaning than just buying a gift and giving it.  My kids are all doing it in their classes in school so they have been busy crafting elaborate ways to wrap their gifts.

One of my daughter’s picked her sister’s name out of the hat (for the second year in a row).  She decided she wanted to make a working piano out of a shoe box to hide her gift in (a puzzle).

It was an elaborate design that included bells and corks and wooden skewers.  And surprisingly enough it works!  All three keys.

My other daughter picked one of her best friend’s name out of the hat.  She knew right away that she wanted to make a jumbo sized paper cupcake.  She hid lots of cupcake related gifts inside.

We used cotton batting for the “frosting” and decorated with a fabric cherry and paper sprinkles.  The whole top lifts off like a lid.  Very sweet.

And last but not least my son picked a classmate who he plays basketball with.  So a papier mache basketball was a must. He left a little hole in one end so he could fit a little stuffed monkey inside.

And the part I love the most is the poem you write about the person you’re giving it to.  It is usually quite funny and full of little jokes and compliments about them.  I think these little notes are kept for many years afterwards.


12 Responses to “Dutch Surprise”

  1. Judith November 29, 2012 at 21:55 #

    Oh I loooooooove Sinterklaas, almost just as much as your kids 😉 Unfortunately we don’t get the entire Sint frenzie here in France and I haven’t eaten any pepernoten or speculaas yet, but I can’t wait to celebrate it with my Dutch family. What an elaborate piano! Amazing! (oh and don’t tell anyone, but I have this secret wish to be a Zwarte Piet some day…)

    • Jillian in Italy November 30, 2012 at 08:47 #

      That’s so funny…I think Dutch adults find the whole thing just as exciting as the kids! I’m still warming up to the whole tradition. But I love seeing my kids so excited. I think you should apply for a Zwarte Piet position one of these years. Live your dream Judith!

  2. GrammaO November 29, 2012 at 22:04 #

    Delightful. The wrappings are really a gift in themselves. Great that you have a photographic record.

  3. growingberries November 30, 2012 at 08:38 #

    These gifts are amazing. You have very talented children! What a lovely tradition.

    • Jillian in Italy November 30, 2012 at 08:48 #

      It really is a very sweet custom. And it gets the kids so motivated to plan and make it which is so nice. Any traditions like this in France?

  4. corinnepaulette November 30, 2012 at 09:30 #

    I love the idea of writing poems to friends – and making presents. Really special. Are all the children so creative?

    • Jillian in Italy November 30, 2012 at 14:49 #

      I saw today at the kid’s school that all of the kids were very creative with their surprise gifts. Lots of over sized cardboard shoes, guitars, monsters…

  5. giova brusa November 30, 2012 at 09:41 #

    Such beautiful and creative wrappings! My the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree! My son wishes he could add Sinterklass to his list, but then we would also be celebrating “Reyes” which is when children from Spain receive their gifts, and boxing day, etc…

    • Jillian in Italy November 30, 2012 at 14:50 #

      Giova, you live in Holland! You have to celebrate Sinterklaas! No but I do understand about all the different holidays and having to choose (in Italy they also have La Befana at the beginning of January).

  6. Jen December 5, 2012 at 23:14 #

    This year we are celebrating with friends of Dutch heritage. I’ve just sent the Mumthis post. Totally gorgeous! We left little polished shoes out last night and the boys received a candy cane, a kazoo and a slinky! It’s fun teaching the boys about other traditions x


  1. Regalini « - December 18, 2012

    […] Today I wanted to share some of my favorite kid gift ideas.  I’ve bought all these products as gifts for various people this holiday season and some have already been opened and loved (remember that our kids receive their presents on December 6th for Sinterklaas). […]

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