Sinterklaas Visit

Charlie has been waiting for Sinterklaas to come to our house in California since last month. He has put his shoes out and left notes in them, and sang a few songs, anticipating and wishing that he’d come by. Every morning he has been checking his shoes, and nothing has been there. I kept telling him that I didn’t think he was going to be able to make it to America from Europe, but he never gave up hoping. He has also been pretty mischievous and I’ve been coaching him to behave and be a better listener, telling him that there is no way Sinterklaas nor Santa Claus will be stopping by our house this year, if he doesn’t start behaving better. I think the challenge worked. He has been working extra hard the last week or so to follow directions and to say, “Yes Mom!!”

He reminded me again this morning that Sinterklaas was coming tonight on December 5th. All evening he kept singing really loudly and looking out the window and listening for him, a bit nervously. I still told him not to expect anything, but did tell him that I was proud of him for improving his behavior. The smart kid said to me, “Mama, if he doesn’t come, can you just get me a gift instead?” So cute, but I said no.

He was getting ready for bed and was in the bathroom, and decided to pray to the bobble head Santa sitting on the counter, praying that by the time he got out of the bathroom that Sinterklaas would knock at the door. Jeff heard the loud knock at the back door and called to Charlie to ask him if heard the knocking sound. Charlie was shocked! His prayer came true. He came out of the bathroom, a bit scared and looking around, not quite sure where to look. I looked out the front door, but nothing was there. Jeff said it sounded like the sound came from the back patio door and that the patio light was on! Charlie was scared to death and couldn’t believe his eyes.

Outside the door was a sack filled with surprises. Jeff and Charlie opened the door and discovered all the generous gifts that Sinterklaas left for our family. The excitement and look on his face was priceless.
Hearing him thank Sinterklaas was so cute. He said that he could smell the pepernoten out on the patio!

Jeff and Charlie went outside to look for him on his white horse with the Zwarte Pieten, but they couldn’t find them. They must move really fast.

Image Photo Credit: Jen Jacobsen, Amsterdam

Oh, the magic and mystery of life, I love it!

Day 117: Zwarte Piet Came to Our House!!

Zwarte Piet came to our house last night. I have no idea how he got in, but magically he did! I bet he used the golden key that the mayor gave Sinterklaas.  He must have known that Charlie had written a letter and left out treats for Sinterklaas’ horse.


Boy, was Charlie surprised to come downstairs to find that Zwarte Piet had left pepper noten and candy in our Dutch Wooden Shoes!  

He was so thrilled that after school today, he wrote a thank you note and left more food for the horse, hoping that he’ll come again.


Day 116: Sinterklaas and the 1000’s of Zwarte Pieten

Today we celebrated an old, Dutch tradition from the 1930s of welcoming Sinterklaas to town from Madrid on his steamboat. He arrived with huge fanfare and docked his boat on the Amstel River next to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum.  The Zwarte Pieten were entertaining the crowds, singing and dancing and repelling from the rooftops, excited for Sinterklaas’ arrival.  It was such a site to see and a day to experience true, Dutch culture.

We got up early on this Sunday morning to take the tram to Amsterdam Central Station, and walked over to the “best” spot to see his arrival.


My favorite part of the day was people watching. Everyone was in such a good spirit and were happy and were together with family and friends. Kids everywhere were dressed up in Zwarte Piet hats and painted faces and costumes.




Not having experienced this celebration but once when I was a child, I was in awe and didn’t want to miss a thing. I don’t know who was more excited – me, my mom, or my kids!!  I guess it was a good day for all.

Zwarte Piet means Black Peter, and there are several different explanations as to what he symbolizes. There is some controversy over his being, which I’d rather not discuss here because I think it takes away from the true intent and context of the original celebration.  Literally thousands of people are dressed up as this character with their faces painted black. They run around and tease the crowds, play tricks, ride scooters or roller blades and hand out pepper noten – small, miniature ginger/cinnamon like cookies and small candies. They also gave out post cards and flags to wave along the parade route. 




The story is that Sinterklaas arrives in town on his steamboat, and then parades through town on his white horse with his helpers before St. Nicholas Eve on December 5th. This gives him time to visit all the good childrens’ homes before the big event.






He received the golden magic key from the mayor and can now magically get into the houses to deliver small presents.  Children leave letters and carrots in their shoes, and Sinterklaas replaces them with gifts. 

It was really exciting to experience this celebration today with so many people along the parade route. The spirit in the air was truly friendly, warm and jovial, despite the cold and sunny weather. I think it’s a great way to bring on the holiday season.  To learn more about Sinterklaas, you can visit wikipedia here:

Watching Charlie’s excitement today at the parade, and seeing my mom help him write a letter to Sinterklaas in Dutch and drawing pictures on his letter was pure joy. I wish that everyone could feel the magic and spirit of being a kid, filled with wonder and curiosity and a touch of fear, waiting and anticipating when Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten may come and knock on our door, throwing pepper noten inside and filling his shoes with candy and toys.  

Happy Holidays!!  xo