Klary (linked to the left) who visited last month sent me a battered and bruised box full of goodies!
I'll start enjoying this weekend, but it includes stroopwaffels, spices for holiday baking, a massive wedge of goudaa nougaty thing (which I can't wait to sink my teeth into), and the letter R...as in Rob. The R is part of a tradition in the Netherlands where you give a chocolate letter to someone. From www.sinterklaas.tripod.com:
Sinterklaas is the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a bishop who lived and worked in Asia Minor. He was born in the in 271 AD. Some sources say that he died on the sixth of December in 343AD. In the year 1998 he would have been 1728 years old.
In Holland people believe that St. Nicholas comes from Spain. This must be because in the 17th century Holland was famous for its navigation so the Dutch sailors had plenty of contact with the Spanish sailors. Also, Holland was ruled by Spain in the 16th century. The Spanish sailors believed in St. Nicholas as their guardian Saint. They must have told the Dutch sailors about this and the Dutch sailors must have taken that back to Holland. In Holland the name given to St. Nicholas is "Sinterklaas".So why does the old man bother to come to this soggy country when he could be having a great time in the sunshine by his pool? Why, it's because of his birthday! His birthday is actually on December 6th, but for some arcane reason it is celebrated a day before .
Before this memorable occasion Sinterklaas climbs onto his "schimmel" and trots around on rooftops. How on Earth he gets there is never explained, and how he keeps his balance on the sloping, slippery roofs is even less understood. Assisted by his black henchmen he now and then throws presents down the chimneys (mostly sweets, suggesting a conspiracy of dentists...), a practice which reduced whole cities to ashes, centuries ago. This was prevented by the introduction of the central heating, with scores of disappointed children as a side effect.
Thanks to the parents this hasn't yet resulted in a downfall of civilisation, as they assume the role of Sinterklaas and put presents like chocolate letters (mostly you get only the first letter of your first name) and marzipan or sugar animals in the shoes their offspring have put in front of the heating element instead. These shoes have been prepared by putting hay and/or a carrot in them, for the horse, though how this animal should get into the room is unclear and not questioned by the children. Thankful that the horrible vegetables are gone, the kids eat themselves silly on the sweets next morning. This shoe business is the opportunity for the children to give lists of all the presents they want to Sinterklaas.
Thanks Klary - Piet will be very kind to you this year :)