My American readers might not realize the significance of today, but December 6 is a much anticipated day of celebration for my Dutch friends. In Holland, Belgium and other parts of Europe children honor Sinterklaas (that's Santa Claus to us Americans) with big parades and parties. To recognize these celebrations, Sinterklaas visits various towns on a white horse. His reindeer stay at the North Pole to rest up for their big night. Because the elves are also busy at the North Pole making toys, Sinterklaas brings different helpers called Zwaarte Piet, or Black Petes with him on December 6. (You can see the Zwaarte Piet sitting next to Sinterklaas in the photo.) The Zwaarte Piet get their name from the soot covering their faces from all coal they carry to give to the naughty children. They also carry candy, chocolates, and special cookies called pepernoten that they hand out to all the well-behaved boys and girls.
Today Miss R. took her nieces to a little Dutch town called Lynden to celebrate Sinterklaas Day. The old saint and his special helpers had come straight from the celebrations in Holland to greet the Dutch children in Lynden. He and his special Zwaarte Piet led a procession to the town's community center where children did special "klompen" or wooden shoe dances for him while the Zwaarte Piet handed out their special treats. Sinterklaas wore his special church robes instead of his fur-lined clothes that he usually wears to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve. Miss R.'s nieces got little toys, candy, and bells. I confess, I haven't always been on my very best behavior this past year so I worried I might get a lump of coal, but one of the Zwaarte Piet gave me a can of my favorite tuna. I also got some yummy pepernoten. Mmmmm.
Miss R. tells me that the boys and girls in room 203 are going to be sharing about their family's holiday traditions. I can't wait to learn about everyone's different traditions. I wonder if those traditions include lumps of coal or cans of tuna.