Tonight is pakjesavond (gift evening) where children get gifts from Sinterklaas in their shoes*. There is a lot of singing songs too. This morning I awoke to a chorus of children singing to Sinterklaas. (I live by a school and Sinterklaas and Piet** visited the students today.) While the holiday is mostly for children, Sinterklaas and Piet have been known to visit businesses from time to time to hand out treats to the employees.
*Some people replace the shoes with burlap sacs featuring a cartoon Sint or Piet design.
**This year not all Pieten are zwarte or black but many colors including stroopwaffel (not kidding). It is a big debate that I won’t get into here but if you are curious there are plenty of articles elsewhere explaining the debate.
This weekend Sinterklaas arrived* in town by boat with his entourage of Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). Children dressed as Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas lined the river and waved flags or balloons to greet the popular holiday figures. The Piets handed out candy to the children. (Mike was a little disappointed that he didn’t get any candy.) After disembarking from his party boat Sinterklaas lead the children in some songs then proceeded to the parade route. The parade looped all around town. Many stores were closed for the festivities and had signs welcoming Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet.
On our way back from the river, Mike and I ran into a celebration in a plaza that included Batman (yes, all the way from Gotham City) and Dominoes Pizza mascots. Guess everyone really does get into the holiday spirit over here.
Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten will be in town until Dec 6 which is Sinterklaas day when they hand out presents. Though apparently from now until the 6th people give each other candy. The stores are full of pepernoten, kruidnoten, chocolate letters, chocolate coins and euros, as well as Sinterklaas shaped chocolates. All in all this is a pretty sweet way to celebrate and I think I may just pick up some chocolate to get into the spirit.
*Mike took a ton of pictures of the event. You can find the photos on his blog.