Sinterklaas Surprises – Love It or Hate It It’s a Dutch tradition and we LOVE it!

Sinterklaas Surprises – love it or hate it – it’s tradition!  If you have kids group 5-8, chances are your kids are required to make a “SUR-PRE-ZUH” leading up to Sinterklaas.  If you are new to Netherlands, you might not want to get caught off guard and show up with something less than expected – might be uncomfortable for the receiver and of course your child the giver.  This mom writes about her experiences on a local site.

Last year was our first full school year in the Netherlands, so it was our first experience with “Sinterklaas Surprises” and celebrating Sinterklaas.  So we made our own family celebrations  and then each year we add (or subtract) or edit.  This year the kids were looking so forward to all the festivities.  But as we also celebrate Christmas, they knew not to expect too many gifts on the 5th.  Also this was the first year we had two non-believers so it made it easier to set expectations.   Though it was quite sad at the same time as M – who had been questioning it all along was apparently told by the teacher – grrr!  So in the end – she was more mad that sad – asking “how could you lie to me for so many years?”  She is over it now but there was one full night of unconsolable drama and tears….

All in all, what the kids were looking forward to most this year was the Sinterklaas Surprises at the school.  In fact, we visited Vlieland again but this time our plan was to head up on the 5th – so no movie this year.  But when we realized they’d do the surprises in the morning, we moved to the evening ferry so  they could be at school the entire day to participate.   Luckily our school has a study day the next day, so we had the day off and could enjoy our time in Vlieland.   I’ll make a separate post about our time there.

SINTERKLAAS SURPRISES

You can see from this year’s surprises, some kids with and without help from parents spend a lot of time and thought into the surprise and others not much.

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For a child receiving a present which  is GEARED TOWARDS THEM and THEIR PERSONAL INTERESTS & HOBBIES is very special.   Perhaps even especially for girls. They even fill in forms to include their hobbies and interests along with things they do not like.   So with that said, even if you have not a creative bone in your body, a simple google search will turn up tons of ideas like this Pinterest board with nearly 300 ideas50 Nice & Easy Sinterklaas Surprise Ideas!   It is really not that hard to create a surprises but I guess you have got to want to make it and not treat it as a nuisance.

Sadly unlike last year, where she received an amazing surprise – a purple ice skate, [which is still on display in her bedroom] this year, she received one that was let’s just say more suited for a child who plays soccer and probably created in less than 10 minutes the night before.  

So for her and rightly so, she was a bit disappointed.  But as the is a mature 9 year old, and a nice girl, she didn’t get upset or cry, but you could tell when she brought it home, she was disappointed.   I wonder what this boy’s reaction would be if he were to receive a ballet slipper whipped together in less than 5 minutes – I’m sure he’d also be disappointed!  Anyway, this was her surprise and it goes down in the record books and went out in the next days recycling.

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My son received one right up his alley – a “MEME”! As he is always posting MEMEs on his friends app and sharing them with me so it was really perfect!

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WHAT MY KIDS MADE MADE

Here are the suprises my kids gave – along with a typed poem – the one of the left was a punch surprise – inside each hole was treats and a big chocolate letter inside.    And the dog looking cat (ha ha) was made out of fluffy cotton balls – inside the tiny box in the front was a package of washi tape and inside was also a giant chocolate letter.

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SINTERKLAAS KOEKJES

On the 5th there is a bit of a class party, Sint and some Piets visit the school, etc so I baked Sint cookies for both kids to take to school.  Extras were given out to the administration, teachers and helper as a thank you.   In fact, as I’m still starting out with my cookies, I did two rounds.

This first photo were of my first set of “oefenen koekjes” = practice cookies which I shared with local kids and my Inburgering classmates.   I picked up this cookie cutter for €1.50 at Dille & Camille but I found it a bit too small.

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Second photo were the actual cookies which were brought into school.  I ended up ordering online a larger Sint cookie cutter for €2.50 from Koekdesign.nl and it was perfect!    I put the in plastic baggies as I assumed some kids would take them home, but turned out they all ate them there.  Good to know for the future – no bags!   Now that I have PME 00 and 0 tips,  I know I can do a better job but they kids thought these were wonderful as is so I was happy about it and they did taste good (according to my kids). 
I never eat decorated cookies – I LOVE making and decorating but I don’t eat them. 

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I’m going to make some Winter themed cookies for their Kerst Dinner.  I’m thinking Extra Large Snowflakes, Xmas Trees, Hot Chocolate Mugs . My son asked me to also make my chili, so I’ll do both.

UPDATE:  Here are some photos of the cookies I made for the Kerst Diner –  slowly I’m getting better with consistency of the icing- still can’t get icing through the tiny  0, 00 and 1 PME to allow for fine details as hoped.   So while the tiny details are still a problem for me, I’m sure the kids are going to love these cookies – or at least I hope! 

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Maebh had a friend over and they decorated some cookies – but using buttercream frosting instead – as there was not enough time to let the royal icing dry.  Here are two photos of their beautiful creations! They are very excited to bring them to school to show their masterpieces.

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2020’s SURPRISES

Just a quick update to this post to share this year’s surprises –  A llama and a tennis racket & trophy! 

While they have 350+ days to wait until next year to start again but only for the one remaining child in groep 8! I am pretty sure middlebare students don’t do surprises.

If you are reading this and have an opinion on the whole tradition of Sinterklaas Surprises, do let me know.  Do you love it like us or do you dread it each year?

Sinterklaas & the traditions in our house!

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….

SINTERKLAAS SURPRISE

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! 🙂

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!