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Sinterklaas is here!

If you've lived here for a while it may no longer seem strange, but if you're new you are probably completely overwhelmed by all the 'Piets' everywhere and the constant pressing of pepernoten on the children... The frenzied commercialism (ok, I sound like a grandma, but still) is a shame, as in fact Sinterklaas is a lovely festival. The real celebration is Sinterklaas' birthday on 5 December (Saturday), when the family traditionally sits around the hearth and sings Sinterklaas songs, and then there is a knock on the door. and there is a bag full of presents on the doorstep. Each present has a teasing poem attached to it for the recipient (from Sint and Piet) and in many families they are deliberately and carefully wrapped up to resemble something else, to which the poem refers. In the run up, since Sinterklaas arrived in the Netherlands, many children have been putting out their shoe in the evening (it's all rather random when - a lot of families do it on Wednesdays and Saturdays), to receive a small gift or sweets/chocolate.

What is it with Zwarte Piet?

For many people, the sight of 'blacked-out' figures walking around is rather distasteful (quite apart from downright scary for a lot of children!). I find it rather hard to stomach, but most Dutch people will passionately defend the depiction of Zwarte Piet (sometimes with rather tenuous arguments, such as that he got black going down the chimney. um.)There is no real doubt, however, that the character is St Nicholas' 'Moorish' slave. And as such the portrayal is hardly in keeping with modern society. I personally see no reason why the tradition cannot remain unchanged, but the portrayal of Piet be altered so as not to be offensive (for instance a circle of black on each cheek). If, like me, you balk at the idea of dressing your children up as Zwarte Piet for a party at school, there's a very simple solution: send them dressed as Sinterklaas.

Apart from this, Sinterklaas is tremendous fun - you can visit his house in De Waag every day from now until 5 December between 12 and 5: do try and go as early as possible, however, as after school it is absolute mayhem!

Traditional food

There are lots of foods traditionally eaten around Sinterklaas. These include marzipan (I adore the marzipan pigs particularly), pepernoten, spekulaas and particularly gevulde spekulaas (filled spekulaas - seriously yummy although quite hard work to make). This recipe for pepernoten is delicious and very easy to do with even the smallest children:



  • 200g self raising flour ( zelfrijzend bakmeel )
  • 100g soft brown sugar ( lichtbruine basterd suiker )
  • 100g butter
  • 1 dessert spoon spekulaas kruiden (mix of spices especially for making spekulaas etc)
  • 2 dessert spoons milk
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Cut butter into pieces, put all ingredients into a mixing bowl
  2. Mix and squidge and squeeze until it's a ball of dough
  3. Divide dough into lots of little balls and divide over a baking tray on
    parchment (bakpapier ), then squash each with a fingertip to flatten slightly.
  4. Bake for approx 15 minutes at 200 ° c
  5. Allow to cool before scoffing!

There are also lots of recipes at to have a go at!



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