Today is a very special day for Dutch kids of all ages, all over the world. Today is the day we celebrate the birthday of Saint Nicholas, or as he is affectionately know among the Dutch: Sinterklaas. Or even shorter: Sint. The fun actually started a few weeks ago, on the second Saturday of November, when Sinterklaas and his helpers arrived in The Netherlands on his steamer. From that day on, every evening Dutch children put out their shoes – filled with a carrot for Amerigo, the horse and some candy or fruit for the Pieten (the Pete’s, the helpers) – and then sing a little song for Sint and the Pieten. The next morning, carrots and candies and fruits are exchanged for little presents. Of course, all the doing of the jolly crew of his Holiness Saint Nicholas, who rides over rooftops on his horse Amerigo while working on filling those little (and big) shoes.
It all culminates in the big evening today, 5 December, when families and friends gather around, and celebrate the birthday of Sinterklaas by receiving gifts. Gifts are brought to homes in a big jute bag. Obviously, only those children who have been nice in the past year will receive the nice presents. The naughty ones will get the ‘roe’ – pronounced ‘roo’ – a birch rod. And in extreme cases, they will be put in the jute bag, and taken back to the residence of Saint Nicholas in Spain, which of course leads to some children in their teens claiming to have been very bad, hoping to get a free trip to sunny Spain.