Sinterklaas Magic

So, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) has arrived and with him, excited smiles and a feeling of goodness. Sinterklaas is a time that, for me, feels like the wonder of Christmas I knew as a child. I have had to learn this feeling as it isn't something I grew up knowing and feeling (For me, we had Santa, which in our home is still a wonder and treat, but Sinterklaas? Never heard of him til I met my Dutch husband). It isn't one of the traditions that has been passed down to me. But it is, nonetheless, a time I have come to treasure with children of my own, and a family who has always known this time to be the best of the year.

Sinterklaas arrives by boat from Spain sometime in the middle of November, with all his Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete) helpers in tow. They come bearing gifts of little ginger cookies called pepernoten (pay-per-no-ten) and candies, checking on good girls and boys the entire month while we all await Sint's birthday on December 5th. After his arrival, children are encouraged to make him pictures and sing him songs, which they do with a hearty lust. They leave their pictures in shoes set by (in our house) the front door, and sometimes include carrots or sugar cubes for Sint's horse, and sometimes water as well. As they head up to bed, they belt out songs dedicated to Sinterklaas, hoping he hears them and will in return for their music, leave something special for them to find in their shoe upon awakening.

Sinterklaas, the good, holy man. He brings out the best in all of us. With his cross decorating his hat and his red cloak with a spiral staff, his long white beard and a ruby red ring, he looks the part. And on his birthday, he surprises us with gifts. The gifts are left by the door in jute sacks all wrapped in colorful paper. His helpers knock on windows and doors, creating noise to let us know of his arrival, and as we sing songs to ask him to come, we eventually hear them overpower us, running to find what he has left for us. The excitement is grand, as we have a month to look forward to this moment.

Since living in Holland, and now Belgium, I have come to treasure this time of year as much as I do Christmas. I can't imagine our evenings not being spent coloring and crafting, singing, and the thrill as each little gift is pulled from a shoe in the morning. I can't imagine cool evenings without pepernoten and speculaas to munch on while watching tv. I can't imagine not having the excitement of 10 sleeps, 4 sleeps, and then just one sleep til his arrival. I can't imagine not watching his arrival on the boat followed by a parade through the town. I can't imagine shopping without having a Piet come fill my hands with goodies as they also wander the city streets. I can't imagine life without Sinterklaas.

Last night while we were making our pictures, Jari piped up: Know what? Someone said Sinterklaas isn't real.

My heart stopped beating for just a nano-second. I don't want this magic to end. I'm not ready to give up the excitement. Jari believes, and that adds to the wonder of this holiday time for me. And yet, I know the complete magic and wonder will end with the passing of this year of Sinterklaas excitement. Too many children will discover the truth, and comment that Sint isn't real. Too many parents will be ready to surrender. But Jari will always hear these words from my mouth: The spirit of Sinterklaas will always be alive if you believe in the magic.

And it isn't a lie. The magic doesn't have to end if we continue to desire the good feeling that comes from something such as Sinterklaas. We can carry on, knowing the truth, but choosing to give into the feeling rather than the reality.

And then, as we were finishing up our little crafts, Jari asked me if I knew what Sint's cloak is called. "Yes, it's called a tabbaard," I told him. "Uh uh," he answered. "It's called a tabbaard-aan!"

Erwin and I looked at eachother and laughed as we started singing the song...doe je beste tabbaard aan... (Put your best cloak on...but Jari thought it was called a cloakon :-))

This is what magic is made of.


Jade said...

Hehe, Hey! I'm starting to recognize sinterklaas! I remember your pictures from last year.

Very cute. I love how you and the boys get into the season and spend the quality time you do together. :-)

May the holidays tattoo a smile on your face ;-)

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Such lovely traditions! I really enjoyed reading and learning about the season. Great photos too! Love the ones at the end of the boys in the hats!

Papa said...

Sinterklaas rules!!!