A Dutch tradition among foreigners

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Dear readers,

Every year, in the run-up to December fifth,

Sinterklaas and Piet visit the Netherlands to make the holiday season into true myth;

Sint arrives in his steamer all the way from Spain,

To reward the good children and punish the ones that have been a pain;

Sinterklaas and his servants arrive each year in early November by steamer

Sinterklaas and his servants arrive each year in early November by steamer

The Zwarte Pieten [‘black Petes’] throw gifts down the chimney into childrens’ shoes,

Sing songs, scatter candy, assist Sint, and take away children’s woos;

Children ‘set their shoes’ – the carrots are for Sinterklaas’ horse, and the papers are wishlists or drawings for Sinterklaas

Children ‘set their shoes’ – the carrots are for Sinterklaas’ horse, and the papers are wishlists or drawings for Sinterklaas

 

Sint and Piet travel the roofs to deliver gifts through the chimneys into children’s shoes

Sint and Piet travel the roofs to deliver gifts through the chimneys into children’s shoes

To top all the festivities before the Sint starts his journey back to his castle,

People trying to make December 5th a success go through a lot of hassle;

During the evening there’s a knock on the door – children get excited – is it Zwarte Piet?

Alas, a no-show, but instead jute bags on the porch full of presents – Sint is very discreet.

To assist Sinterklaas in his generous work,

The adults write mocking poems for each other and smirk;

While children unwrap gifts, sing songs to thank Sinterklaas and his happy aides,

And promise better behavior until next year’s return of these cheerful brigades;

Sinterklaas on his horse with Zwarte Pieten walking next to him

Sinterklaas on his horse with Zwarte Pieten walking next to him

So, that is the tradition the Dutch celebrate each year,

And get a lot of foreign criticism for it to bear[1];

Is it racist? Or is it something innocent the Dutch just can’t let go of?

I can see both sides, but I have to say I still feel a lot of love,

For the cheery Zwarte Pieten, Sinterklaas, their serious chief,

The songs, the celebrations and the nation’s collective trust and belief.

The poem is reaching its end and hopefully made you see the magic of this tradition,

Don’t forget to check out the footnotes for more fun and knowledge about this magical superstition!

All the best from,

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

(and Witje[2])

Caption: Typical Sinterklaas song – children sing this before they put their shoes under the chimney to reach Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten to let them know their ‘shoes are set’. Sint and his Pieten are travelling by the roofs throwing presents through the chimneys.

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