Sinterklaas is celebrated in the Netherlands on December 5th or 6th. It’s the time when sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) visits and brings gifts for the kids. Sounds familiar right? Actually though, this holiday has a history from where the tradition started.
Saint Nicholas was a man who went around towns and gave gifts to children. He became a celebrated figure, and as years went by the tradition grew into a holiday across Eastern Europe. Now the story goes that he travels from Spain with his helper, Zwart Piet, every year on a ship to the Netherlands. He travels through the country where celebrations occur with excitement. During the weeks leading up to December 5 anticipation grows as children leave a shoe overnight by the fireplace in hopes of waking up to a surprise. Usually some hay and carrots would be left there as well for Sinterklaas’s horse. They would usually receive something simple such as a few cookies, candy and/or small gift.
The day of December 5 is where the build up ends. Family gets together this evening, technically called St. Nicholas Eve. It’s when the fun happens, gifts are exchanged and food is eaten. This fun holiday and is always a highlight of the year for both kids and adults. Here in Canada we have continued to celebrate it and perhaps what I appreciate most is how Christmas is made even more special because of it. Focusing the giving and receiving on a day before Christmas allows December 25 to mean more than just presents to the kids. Plus any excuse to enjoy food together is a wonderful day!
So what are the traditional foods of sinterklaas?
Pepernoten or Kruidnoten.
These are small round cookies made with dutch spice mix (similar to gingerbread or spekulaas). The difference? Pepernoten are soft and chewy while Kruidnoten have a crispy texture.
Stollen Gateau de Noel
This cake is not only eaten at Sinterklaas but all the way until Christmas. Find the one that has almond filling throughout the centre for extra yumminess!
Everyone receives the first letter of their name… They’re usually just regular chocolate, but I swear they taste better when it’s your letter.
Kroketten & Fricandellan
These are actually an around the calender food for the Dutch as well as part of dinner for many on Sinterklaas.