As most of our friends know, Ken is Dutch.
Celebrating St. Nicholas Day is a tradition passed down from Ken’s family that we have carried on with our girls. The actual day is December 6th, but we have always celebrated it on the 5th. Not too sure why (honestly, I think Ken just got a little confused the first year we were married, but the date sort of stuck…so that’s when we celebrate. Fine with me. I’m not Dutch, so I think getting a present or two anytime before Christmas is pretty exciting).
So, anyhow, tonight the girls and I celebrated St. Nicholas Day with a couple close friends. It’s always a lot of fun with the excitement and energy that come from a 2, 4 and 6 year old at a gift exchange.
But tonight’s party was nothing like the real Dutch celebration. We were introduced to that earlier this week at the Dutch Club Saint Nicholas Party with Oma and Opa (Ken’s folks). That was an experience! Mary Joy and Esther were both frightened to death by the “Zwarte Piets” that came in passing out gifts. It was their first exposure to the real Dutch experience.
In case you don’t know much of the legend here’s something I pulled off the Internet:
“Sinterklaas (Dutch name for St. Nicholas) arrives in the Netherlands by way of steamboat from Spain 2 weeks before his traditional birthday, December 6th, along with his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who will help disperse the gifts and candy to all the good children. Sinterklaas, along with the zwarte piets, will go abroad at night and stride about the countryside wearing his red mantle, his mitre, and his golden crosier and sporting a long, white beard. Referring to his book that lists all the good and bad children, Sinterklaas will deliver presents to all the good children, but watch out if you’ve been bad!”
This story is reenacted every year in full costume as standard celebration protocol along with singing and lots of interesting food. The kids set out their wooden shoes–like we set out stockings, only they leave a carrot instead of milk and cookies–and then are left with a nice gift from Sinterklaas sometime in the night. (Come to think of it, that’s probably why we celebrate it on the 5th. We never really set out the shoes at our house, I just thought they made cute seasonal decorations. Can you tell I’m new to this Dutch thing?)
With Ken in Uganda for 9 more days it’s been good to keep the girls distracted with fun activities. We’ve gotten quite a bit of mileage out of the St. Nicholas celebrations, now we’ll focus on some fun Advent traditions and our count-down chain that keeps track of the days until Daddy gets home.
Today, we were fortunate enough to receive a phone call from Ken. With the time delay that occurs with international calls, five minutes wasn’t a lot of time to split between four girls. But, we were glad to hear his voice and get to tell him how much we love and miss him.
He said the trip has been really amazing so far. I can’t wait to see his pictures and hear all of the stories of his experience.