Memories of Saint Nicholas Day in the Netherlands

Hannie wrote:

As children in Holland we received our gifts on Dec 6, from Sinterklaas (St Nicholas). Early in the morning we would come downstairs to find the large table in the living/diningroom covered with toys, a pile for each child. Since there was no school, of course, we spent the day in our pjs playing with all the new stuff. We did not even have to stop for meals – food that day consisted of a large raisin bread man, one for each of us, which we toted around the whole day and gnawed at. I can’t remember whether we had a proper meal at night, even. But I do remember that it was the most glorious day of the year!


And from Ine:

I barely remember St. Nicholas Day because in Holland I was really little. However, I do know that he arrived by steamship from Spain and trotted through the town on a lovely white horse. I saw him from a distance. He seemed both stern and warm! Black Peter, on the other hand, made me nervous, because certain sibs said the knock on the door was for me because I was trouble.

That was St. Nicholas Eve. Before bed we put out our shoes and carrots for the horse and hopes for ourselves. After we were safely away, there were mysterious comings and goings, knocks on the doors and other unidentifiable sounds.

The next day, hoping there was no black coal, we rushed down to find little gifts and goodies, and no carrots. I remember carefully stitched doll clothes and knitted vests.

St. Nicholas Day is mostly about smells, though. Think speculaas. Thin cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, cardamon. Yummmm.

Think songs – Zie Ginds Komt de Stoomboot (Look Here Comes the Steamboat)

Zie Ginds Komt de Stoomboot (Dutch)

Zie ginds komt de stoomboot,
Uit Spanje weer aan.
Hij brengt on Sint Nicolaas,
Ik zie hem al staan.
Hoe huppelt zijn paardje,
Het dek op en neer,
Hoe waaien de wimpels,
Al heen en al weer.

Zijn knecht staat de lachen,
Hij roept ons reeds toe.
Wie zoet is krijgt lekkers,
Wie stout is, de roe.
Oh, lieve Sint Nicolaas,
Kom ook toch bij mij,
En rijd toch niet stilletjes,
Ons huisje voorbij.

Look, There is the Steamboat (English)

Look there is the steamboat
From far-away Spain.
It brings us Saint Nicholas,
I can see him, waving.
His horse is a-prancing
On deck up and down,
The banners are waving,
In village and town.

His servant is laughing
And tells everyone,
The good kids get candy,
The bad ones get none.
Oh, dearest Saint Nicholas,
If Pete and you would,
Just visit our house,
For we all have been good.


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