Sinterklaas 2017

Last week on Sunday, December 3rd, the HAC celebrated the birthday of Saint Nicolas, or, as we say in the Netherlands: Sint Nicolaas or Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas is celebrated on December 5th, the eve of his birthday.  We were very lucky that Sinterklaas could be here in Dallas with us just before his birthday.  He had plenty of time to get back to the Netherlands to celebrate his birthday with all the children there.  In the Netherlands he normally starts the day by visiting all the children in all the schools.  That takes pretty much the whole day.  In the evening he travels over all the roofs of all the houses to deliver gifts to all the children.  He travels from house to house on his white dappled horse, called a schimmel.  This is a lot of work and it is good that Sinterklaas has so many helpers. I don't exactly know how many, but there are a lot.

Sinterklaas had brought two of his helpers with him to Dallas.  Each of them is called Piet.  That is the Dutch way of spelling their name.  The American way is Pete, short for Peter.  Funny thing is that all the helpers have the same name.  That is very handy for Sinterklaas.  All he has to do is call Pete! and a lot of his helpers come running.

Well, last week was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and it was warm.  Just like it was in Spain, where Sint Nicolaas lives the rest of the year.  Sinterklaas and his helpers were expected at the Brookside Center in Hurst, which is where he has visited the Dutch children for many years now.  The hall was decorated beautifully with little Dutch flags.  Sinterklaas cut-outs and Pete cut-outs were attached to the back of all the chairs.  There were about 9 large tables with orange and red-white-and blue table cloths.  On the tables were pictures to be colored, crayons and also dishes of 'strooigoed', meaning 'scatter candy'.  In the olden days the Petes used to scatter candy on school desks and on floors in houses where children lived.  Usually the candies were scattered from behind the fire place, or through  a slightly open door into the living room.  These days we are more careful and give the candy in dishes.  That way the candy stays cleaner.

As we expect from Dutch children, they were on their best behavior.  The room was quiet while the children were coloring, their parents were happily watching or helping them, while having coffee and banket.  Oh yes, there were all sorts of Dutch goodies, including banket and speculaas.

Aunt Grace was there also and she accompanied the children with her beautiful accordion, when they sang Sinterklaas songs in Dutch!  It was all so wonderful, just like being back in the Netherlands with happy children and grateful moms and dads.  While we were all singing, who would walk in but Sint Nicolaas with two of his helpers!  While Sinterklaas walked by every table to greet the families and admire the art of the children, the Peters were busy throwing candy on every table and doing what Peters do.  Their antics were delightful and everybody was so happy and full of anticipation.  When Sinterklaas sat down in his beautiful chair, called a 'thrown', he read a story to the children, first in Dutch for the children who spoke only 'Nederlands'  and then in English for the children who spoke mainly English.  What a lovely time we all had.

And then there came another big surprise.  I have already told you that all the children were good children. Good children get a gift from Sinterklaas.   The Peters were asked to bring in the bags of gifts that Sinterklaas had brought for the children.  Oh my, how wonderful that was.  Each child got a beautiful toy.  Just exactly what that child had asked for.  I don't know how Sint Nicolaas knows just what each child would like to have.  I saw toy airplanes, dolls, toy dogs, art kits, little trains on a small wooden track, pretty pillows, and just too much to remember.  The children showed each other what they had received.  I have seen children share their toys and playing together with each others toys.  I told you, they were very good children!  All the children were also given a bag with an orange in it and a chocolate initial.  It smelled so good when some of the children peeled their oranges and ate them.  I wanted an orange myself, and I got one!  It was really, really good.

There was still enough time for Sinterklaas to stay around, talk with the children and their parents and have pictures taken of the children of each family with Sinterklaas.  How wonderful it was.  But then it was time for Sint Nicolaas to go back to the Netherlands.  The children sang goodbye, while Sinterklaas and his helpers left.  It felt a bit empty after they had gone.  But we all knew that next year they will be back and we will once again celebrate the birthday of Sint Nicolaas.

The club wishes to thank the Board for all their hard work in organizing, preparing, shopping for, renting, decorating and cleaning the hall.  Also for the loan of the 'throne'.  The Board wishes to thank Fred Schendstok for an excellent job.  Also thank you to Renzo and Stefano Cognetti. Thank you to all those I am too innocent to know and thank you to all others who jumped in and lend a hand.

Meta Evenbly.

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