This year we were introduced to a beloved Dutch holiday tradition: Sinterklaas.

He looks like Santa, his name sounds like Santa, he brings presents to good children in December, he has helpers… This “Santa” known by the name of Sinterklaas lives in Spain with his “Zwarte Piets” (Black Petes) and arrives in Holland via steamboat to a different port every year; this momentous affair is televised each year.

During the days leading to December 5, when Sinterklaas and his helpers bring presents to good children (the bad ones are taken to Spain), Sinterklaas-themed decorations are everywhere. While shopping, we ran into adolescents dressed up as Zwarte Piets meaning they had painted their faces black, wore bright red lipstick, donned black curly wigs, and wore traditional Zwarte Piet costumes (see slideshow). I should mention that I also saw small children with black faces at the supermarket or at school. I found it odd and amusing at the same time because well… that just wouldn’t fly back in the States. The PC (politically correct) story is that they’re black from going down the chimneys and being covered in soot. The non-PC version is that they are Sinterklaas’ slaves or servants.

Since we cannot escape Sinterklaas now that we live here, we have decided that he should bring chocolates, candy and a small present for the children. We are still counting on Santa Claus and his reindeer to visit us on Christmas Eve and personally, I find that he makes this time of year much more magical and fun, especially for the children.

M had a Sinterklaas function at work but we didn’t stay long because Owen got sick not even 15 minutes after we arrived. But it was nice, there were treats and toys for the children, and a play in the cafeteria. Employees received a chocolate letter (typical Dutch candy for this holiday) with a Zwarte Piet – total HR red flag if they tried this in the States.

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