Pere Noel, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas or Santa Clause, regardless of what you call him, St. Nicholas, with his lively traditions and giving spirit bring joy to children (and let’s be honest, adults) this time of year. One magical tradition that creates a festive atmosphere early in the advent season is the tale and celebration of St. Nicholas Day. Many of the customs of St. Nicholas are rooted in the middle ages and have slight regional variations. The main variations can be seen in who is accompanying St. Nicholas on his stealthy midnight journey. Despite the regional differences you will find that woven into all of the traditions remain the central elements of celebration with loved ones and the sharing of small gifts. Below you will discover how the people of the Netherlands celebrate this festive day. So prepare your shoes with carrots and hay and lets celebrate the Eve of St. Nicholas.
It all begins in late November when St. Nicholas and his sidekick Zwarte Pieten (Black Peter) arrive in The Netherlands on a steamboat from Spain. From the time he arrives until his feast day celebrated on the evening of December 5th they travel the country to see who has been naughty or nice. On the evening of December 5th children throughout the country (and around the world) leave their shoes near the mantle filled with carrots or hay for his white horse. When the children awake the next morning they find that the hay and carrots are gone, and have been replaced with small gifts. However, naughty children beware, the legend of St. Nicholas and Zwarte Pieten says that if you have not been good this year, you will be snatched up and taken back to Spain where it is said that St. Nicholas lives throughout the year. In some cases the naughty children are left at home, but receive coal or salt in their shoes rather than sweets and small toys. So it’s always a good idea to behave, as St. Nicholas & Zwarte Pieten may be watching you…..and you certainly don’t want to end up an a beach in Spain somewhere 🙂
Traditionally St. Nicholas will leave children’s shoes filled with many goodies including:
A candy cane, the significance here is the shape of the candy cane represents the staff carried by St. Nicholas.
A clementine as they represent gold and wealth that St Nicholas would share.
Gold Coins in honor of the dowry St. Nicholas is believed to have left for poor girls before they were to wed.
Today he may also leave marbles or other small toys.
Now the only question that remains is, will you be leaving out your slippers for St. Nicholas to fill?