Sinterklaas memories – Dievertje Doddema


Like the children in America believe in Santa Claus, I believed in Sinterklaas, also known as Sint Nicolaas or De Goedheiligman. Every year on the second or third Saturday of November Sinterklaas comes with his steamship (the stoomboot) from Spain in the Netherlands. Now I know that steamship never came from Spain, but when I was little, I believed so. A week later he came in our village, every year it was a great celebration.My brother is five years older, so he had to play for years he also believed in Sinterklaas.

Some nights my mother told me to put a shoe in front of the stove, because the servants of Sinterklaas (called: zwarte pieten) would come through the chimney at night and put a present in my shoe. Just like Santa does to put it in a stocking. I always wondered how zwarte piet could manage that, because he had to screw the whole front of the stove of there to get into our living room. One day I asked my mother about that and she opened a small window just in case zwarte piet did not use the chimney. I remember that one night I’ve put my shoe in front of the stove I lied awake, a bit scared, because every minute zwarte piet could come into our living room. My room was next to the living room, so when I wanted to use the bathroom, I had to go through the living room. I was too scared to do that. Somehow I fell asleep and the next morning, very early, I watched if zwarte piet and Sinterklaas had brought something. And yes, there was a big present next to my shoe! When I went to my grandparents (the parents of my mother), my grandmother told me that Sinterklaas had left a present for us. The presents at my grandparents always came with a poem (a ‘Sinterklaasgedicht’) about how we behaved that year. Mostly we got new pajamas and we were always very happy with them.

And then, on the 5th of december, that was the day! Sinterklaas came at our school in the morning and we did sing when Sinterklaas walked into the school. The zwarte pieten always had bags with short bread (pepernoten) and other candy to scatter. And also we got a little present at the school. When I went home in the afternoon I was always very excited about the coming evening, when Sinterklaas would bring a lot of presents. At night, when it became dark, my other grandparents (the parents of my father) came and we waited together, while we were eating a piece of ‘banketletter’ (a typical Sinterklaas-related delicacy) till Sinterklaas and his zwarte pieten would arrive with the presents. Suddenly my father jumped up from the chair and said: I think I heard something! I was too scared to watch at the door. My father first watched and then he called us to tell Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet had left the presents at our back door! And there they were, a basket full of presents. We opened them impatient while our parents and grandparents enjoyed our happy faces. The next day we could play with our new presents, but I always was a bit disappointed that Sinterklaas went home (back to Spain) already, now I had to wait a whole year again for Sinterklaas to arrive again.

I hope you enjoy the story, It was also fun for me to write, it brings back a lot of memories.

Please also read the information with this link, because it also says something about racialization in relation with the ‘zwarte pieten’. It is a misunderstanding that ‘zwarte pieten’ have something to do with racism, it is just a tradition, I hope you understand that:

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