I'm so excited for this evening I can hardly wait! I've set out a search through the house for my parents and worked really hard on my "surprises" (pictures will follow later!) and I hope my parents will like their gifts. But for now I will share the history and traditions of the most fun Dutch holiday with you!
Sinterklaas is a centuries old feast which has only gotten better with the years. In the 13th century it was just for children or the poor, but now it's a huge celebration for everyone. It's a lot like Christmas in some ways, but it also has a lot a special unique traditions. This is how Sintklaas is celebrated every year :)
He arrives in the Netherlands on the twelfth of November and stays till the sixth. He comes from "Spain" in a steamboat, loaded with gifts and all his Zwarte Pieten (literally "Black Petes"). His arrival is celebrated in many towns, but it's especially huge in Amsterdam, with a parade of boats on the Amstelriver and hundreds of Zwarte Pieten who strew pepernoten everywhere :)
From the day he arrives till "pakjesavond" children are allowed to put their shoe in front of the chimney (sometimes with a carrot for the horse or a drawing in it) to see it filled with candy or a small gift the next morning if you've been a good child all year, or a birch rod in case you haven't (though I don't think parents are that mean anymore). Pakjesavond is celebrated in the evening of the fifth of December when Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten come to every house to give presents to all the children.
I believed in Sinterklaas till the age of eight I think and I still regret that all the magic is gone. My parents once hid a bag full of presents in the shed and asked me how Zwarte Piet could have gotten in there and I answered that he obviously just came through a hole in the roof or crept under the door or something :)
There is a fun part to not believing though: Surprises! I'll show some pictures tomorrow because I don't want my parents to know all about them already :) I'm pretty disappointed none of you understand Dutch, because now you can't read my Sinterklaas poetry ánd I can't share any Sinterklaas songs! You'll just have to take it from me that both are pretty awesome ^_^
I'm going to stare at the big pile of gifts at the chimney now and wish my dad comes home soon!