Tag Archives: Sinterklaas

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.

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Hij komt, hij komt

26 Nov

Today I’ve had a house full of busy little kids drawing and preparing for Sinterklaas’ big arrival by boat on Lago Maggiore.  By 7am the three kids were busily drawing and sketching and colouring.  Mama decided to stay in bed a little longer but could hear the giggling, chatting and overall excitement in their voices from upstairs.Busy little hands hard at work. Here is a drawing of Sinterklaas accompanied by his Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters).  Being a North American I have a bit of trouble accepting the whole concept of Sint’s helpers.  But the Dutch speaking people are very defensive about their Sint tradition and say there is nothing derogatory about the Zwarte Pieten.  Umm…ok.The Sint arriving…

After a long visit of meeting the many kids, listening to Sint songs, eating some erwtensoep (pea soup), it’s time for the Sint to leave.  There were lots of Flemish and Dutch kids in attendance.  Also a few local Italians who were walking along the lake stopped to see what was going on.  They all had very puzzled looks on their faces.  Overall it was a very pleasant afternoon with incredible weather and a spectacular sunset.

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