This is our first year living in The Netherlands for Sinterklaas and Christmas…. so what do we do? We certainly cannot stop celebrating Christmas – suddenly have the kids forget about Santas Claus and now believe in Sinterklaas and all story behind that. Our youngest (age 8.5) “believes” in both Sinterklaas and the Kerstman, The Tooth Fairy, her Irish Fairy Fiona, and every other imaginary thing you tell her! Well – she knows the Easter Bunny is you know f@#e… but only because we never did that big basket of junk for the kids. But they did attend a few egg hunts (which were staged and set up mainly from the grandparents) or a guy in a funny bunny suit. However, our oldest (nearly 11) told us this year in tears that “he knows”. Of course he does – it was only a matter of time. He was the one who told us (in front of his sister) that Fionas, the elves and my handwriting were all the SAME! Which I had to offer a valid explanation to not crush her – clever guy…. but still keep it to yourself, don’t tell your sister. Oh and for about two weeks this dragged on and on about how he now is ruined Christmas for life….I think a bit too much drama and it was used a crutch to avoid getting into trouble with things. Sort of the white milk and cookie scenario when he was a kid but will give him a break 🙂 So how to do it??
Well, we’d maintain with our Christmas traditions (Elves (for now!), Santa, if possible cut down our Christmas tree, ice skating, Christmas Market) but we’d do a little bit for Sinterklaas too. Kids would receive three small gifts along with a letter from Sinterklaas telling them that this year they are new to the Netherlands and that he’d only be brining them a few things as they’d get more gifts at Christmas while other Dutch kids wouldn’t. They were TOTALLY fine with this!! They loved that in his letter he gave some money with instructions to the movies and watch a holiday movie – which we did – we went out and watched the Grinch on Pakjesavond.
So our first annual Sintaklaas tradition is to go to the movies on his birthday!! 🙂 Also, we went to Vlieland for three nights and will hopefully continue to do that as a tradition of heading to one of the Wadden Islands with friends.
So …starting on Dec 17 and every few nights during the period when Sint was in The Netherlands the kids put their shoes out in front of the fireplace – sang a few songs and magically the next morning, they received a few treats and every now and then a tiny present which were all bought at the Wibra! The day after Thanksgiving (see another twist) Asteroid and Pixie, their mischievous elves showed up and got into their candy!
I won’t even discuss those elves – they took a break last year and visited another family who needed help as our kids were very good. This year the kids really hoped they’d return so they did… oh do I regret that. Each day I go to bed early, I forget to move them… so now they often just sit in the same place for two days in a row – or if I remember, they join the kids in bed – ohhh how adventurous. You’ll see – a few years ago, I was very good with them…. I had a whole 30 days on my facebook dedicated to them…. this might be their last year with our family…. might be time for them to ‘retire permanently’.
Oh yeah I nearly forgot – one of the best parts of the evening was that the next door neighbour banged on the door at 5:30 pm so during dinner, suddenly the widows and doors were being banged on and it was so loud it scared the crap out of me and M. Then the kids ran to the door to find the presents laying there … typical how did Sinterklaas get those gifts inside questions begin….
Then there was a big surprise for me which was the “SINTERKLAAS SURPRISE” which happens at school. In case you are not familiar … it is a common Dutch practice for the older kids starting at upper primary school level (I think group 5 & above) to celebrate Sinterklaas in the classroom by opening a “SURPRISE”. Pronounced as “sur-pree-zuh”. It essentially mirrors a Secret Santa gift exchange yet with exaggeration and you must be super creative and put your present inside an over-the-top crafted gift which goes along with the receivers hobbies or interests. Now from what I understand the KIDS are to MAKE the gift and write the poem, but after watching an episode of De Luizenmoeders and seeing first-hand – sorry but many of those sur-pree-zuhs were created by the PARENTS and not the kids. I helped my kids a bit but no way did I want to show up with a super duper crafted item which clearly I did. For some parents, it is clearly a competition and it is the parents who do the work on these things. Maybe next year, I’ll help a
bit lot more than this! 🙂
Here are the photos which were taken from a class parent at drop off – note BOTH my kids surprises were STILL IN THE BAGS which they brought them to school in – so you don’t seem them here, but I did take a photo before they left home. They both assured me they were taken out of the bag promptly and both receivers enjoyed their surprises, poems and gifts. Great!
I think the whole Surprise is so great and so original. I love it and not sure why it never made it’s way to to the US, UK or Ireland. Sure we have grabs, Kris Kringle and the poems, but never the creative aspect of putting your gift inside something made about the hobby or interest of the receiver. I love it and look forward to next year! 🙂
On the same day, Sint came to the kids’ school along with his Piets which delivered peppernoten to the classrooms. Each group sang songs, etc. The kids had a great time!
As with all these holidays, it’s about being together as a family and we’re spending a few days together the the family here in The Netherlands. The family and kids from NYC will come in the summer, so we’re all be together then and will make up for this missed time then. Last year my family came over so maybe next year we head back to the US?
2018 was interesting to the say the least and I’m looking forward to 2019!