Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Marion Pellicano Ambrose

As a teacher, each year I celebrated "Sinterklaas Day" with my classes. One reason is because I'm part Dutch (on my mother's side), but the real reason is because it's so much fun! My children would make cardboard wooden shoes and paper carrots and hay to place outside the classroom the eve of Sinterklaas Day. Sure enough, the next morning, December 6th, when they came back to school, Sinterklaas had visited, leaving candy, cookies and other treats in their shoes.

In Holland, during the last week of November, Sinterklaas arrives aboard a steamboat from Spain. He rides a white horse and his assistant, Zwarte Piet. They travel to Amsterdam where huge crowds greet them. The children are on their best behavior because if they are naughty, Zwarte Piet may swat them with a stick or take them back to Spain in his big bag.

On the night of December 5th, Dutch children place their wooden shoes by the fireplace and fill them with carrots and hay for Sinterklaas' white horse. If they were good, Sinterklaas will replace the "horse chow"  with gifts and candy. In many homes, there may be a knock at the door, or the ring of the doorbell and Zwarte Piet's hand may be seen throwing candies and cookies into the room and quickly shutting the door. When the door is finally opened, there is a basket of gifts wrapped in funny or unusual ways, with special poems or rhymes attached and signed by Sinterklaas himself.
One of my favorite traditions is the giving of initials in solid chocolate! Sinterklaas Day is celebrated with parties and a great deal of merrymaking. Christmas Day, however is a time for family get togethers and church services.

I think it's a great way to help children to learn about other cultures and appreciate diversity. I say we celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanza, Las Posadas and Santa Lucia Day ! Share stories from La Befana to the Elf on the Shelf - whatever spreads joy, helps bring families together, and fosters learning and appreciation of other cultures! There are many excellent books that tell the stories of Winter Holidays, explain the meaning behind holiday symbols and songs,and include fun and educational activities.
Here are a few that I've used myself:

Monthly Idea Book (December)   Karen Sevaly

Mailbox Magazine (December and also The Best of Mailbox)

The Return of the Light (12 Tales From Around the World)   Carolyn McVickar Edwards

Christmas Keepsake - A Treasury of Best-Loved Stories and More   Annette Cable

Celebrate Christmas Around the World    Beth Stevens

Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World  Heather Conrad

Around The World Through Holidays: Cross Curricular Readers Theatre    Carol Peterson

The Real St. Nicholas: Tales of Generosity and Hope from around the World   Louise Carus

ANY of the National Geographic Holidays Around the World   Deborah Heligman

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this tradition!