It’s the 5th of December, which means “Pakjesavond” in The Netherlands. “Pakjesavond” is a night to celebrates Sinterklaas’ birthday by giving gifts to all children. Traditionally this is celebrated by friends and family where Sinterklaas comes into their houses and asks the children if they’ve been nice this year. Or Sinterklaas knocks on the front door and leaves a big bag of gift.
When children become older and don’t believe in Sinterklaas anymore this night is usually celebrated with games or gifts. During these game nights Sinterklaas is celebrated by some kind of “secret Sinterklaas” variation. Traditionally, this is a “secret Sinterklaas” where you make a handcrafted gift for your secret Sinterklaas with little gifts inside (kind of like a personalised piñata). Before opening the handcrafted gift a Sinterklaas poem is read out loud (which is also personalised by your secret Sinterklaas).
Another way of celebrating Sinterklaas could be a dice game where every number on the dice relates to a task. For example switch gifts with the person on your left, pick a gift from the pile in the middle or open one of the gifts that are currently yours.
Our Sinterklaas traditions
In our family my sisters and I don’t believe in Sinterklaas anymore, so we celebrate the 5th of December with “secret Sinterklaas”. The last couple of years we buy little gifts for a certain amount of money. During the afternoon we put them all up side down on the table and one of us (usually my dad) picks a gift. After all the gifts are unwrapped we reveal who everyones secret Sinterklaas was. But usually my youngest sister always figured it out way before the 5th of December. Still don’t know how she does that!
During the evening around 3 we go to my uncles house in Amsterdam. Almost the whole family of my dad’s side is there (3 generations) to celebrate Sinterklaas together. Around 4 Sinterklaas arrives at my uncles house and the little nieces and nephews (who still believe) go to Sinterklaas one by one and tell us something about their school or hobby.
A typical treat during Sinterklaas are “pepernoten” (or officially called “kruidnoten”), which are tiny little spiced cookies. In the picture above you see the traditional once, but you also have them with a chocolate or truffle coating. You can see the chocolate coated once in the picture below. Also chocolate letters (a chocolate ‘bar’ in the shape of a letter) are a traditional treat. Usually you pick the chocolate letter which corresponds with the first letter of your name.
I hope you liked reading about Sinterklaas on the 5th of December and our Sinterklaas traditions. Let me know if you’d like a post about What I got for Sinterklaas in the comments below!