Thursday, 3 December 2009

3 days to 5 December...

Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American War of Independence the inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town (New Amsterdam) which had been swapped by the Dutch for other territories, reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city's non-English past. The name Santa Claus supposedly derived from older Dutch Sinte Klaas.

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas' Eve (December 5) is the chief occasion for gift-giving and eating all special Sinterklaas sweets. The evening is called "sinterklaasavond" or "pakjesavond" ("presents evening"). In the Netherlands, children receive their presents on this evening whereas in Belgium, children put their shoe in front of the fireplace on the evening of December 5, then go to bed, and find the presents around the shoes on the morning of the 6th.

Traditionally, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten would stuff the child in a sack and threaten to beat it with a broom or a stick. Then all the naughty children, in sacks, were said to be taken back with Sinterklaas to Spain (it is believed that Sinterklaas comes from Spain, where he returns at the end of the night). Today, this is usually considered unpaedagogical and parents have ceased to tell their children this story in earnest. Nevertheless, many Sinterklaas songs still allude to a watching Zwarte Piet and a judging Sinterklaas.

Traditionally, in the weeks between his arrival and December 5, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the fireplace chimney of the coal fired stove or fireplace, or, in modern times, next to the central heating or at the front door. The shoe is to have a carrot or some hay in it and a bowl of water "for Sinterklaas' horse, Amerigo!" and the children sing some Sinterklaas songs; the next day they will find some candy or a small present in their shoes. When a house has no chimney, Sinterklaas or Black Pete is said to enter using his special key that fits on every door in the Netherlands.

source wikipedia [dot] org

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