Tonight is the first night of Sinterklaas for our family. It's a Dutch tradition that we did when we were little, because my father did it when he was little, because my father's father did it when he was little and so on...
Sinterklaas would be similar to the North American version of Santa Claus, with similar traditions. Sinterklaas Eve however, is on December 5th and we begin celebrating from December 1st. Each night, before bed, we put our shoe out on our window sil, sing the song, and go to sleep. If we've been good, when we wake up in the morning, Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet (black Peter), would have come on his grey horse and left a treat in your shoe. The continues each night until the night of the 5th when instead of a small gift, Sinterklaas delivers your Christmas presents.
I remember one Christmas in particular, my dad had gone out to feed our rabbits and my mom was busy getting us to bed. That night, we had sang our song and were settling in when we heard a loud, distinctive rapping on a window in the room. Scared half to death, we ran to the window to see who was there. Nothing. Then, the same banging came from the next room down the hall and so on around the entire house. By the time we reached the front of the house, we were probably all white as ghosts. At this point, our front door flew open and a garbage bag of gifts came hurdling in the entrance, spewing presents all over the floor! In complete shock, we picked them and up and read: To Maria, From Sinterklaas.
Seconds later, my dad came in wondering what all the fuss was about. For a long time after that (longer than most kids, I think), I still believed there was a Sinterklaas. It was too real.
It's a family tradition that I'm excited to teach my son this year, now that he's old enough to grasp the concept (somewhat). We won't be celebrating it to the full extent, but the singing each night and awaking to the small treat is enough fun. It's a lovely way to start off the holidays. For the rest of the presents, he'll have to wait until Christmas morning.