A Dutch Holiday Tradition
When I was growing up, the children in my family put out wooden shoes on the night of the 5th. These were filled with "hay" (strips of paper- we were city kids) and a carrot for St. Nicholas' horse. The next morning we would find the shoes filled with pepernoten and a letter (our initial) made of chocolate. The "horse" always left behind the end of the carrot to show that it had enjoyed its snack.
In the days leading up to 5 December (starting when Saint Nicholas has arrived in the Netherlands by steamboat in late November), young children put their shoes in front of the chimneys and sing Sinterklaas songs. Often they put a carrot or some hay in the shoes, as a gift to St. Nicholas' horse. (In recent years the horse has been named Amerigo in The Netherlands and Slechtweervandaag in Flanders.) The next morning they will find a small present in their shoes, ranging from sweets to marbles or some other small toy. On the evening of 5 December, Sinterklaas brings presents to every child who has behaved him- or herself in the past year (in practice, just like with Santa Claus, all children receive gifts without distinction). This is often done by placing a bag filled with presents outside the house or living room, after which a neighbor or parent bangs the door or window, pretending to be Sinterklaas' assistant. Another option is to hire or ask someone to dress up as Sinterklaas and deliver the presents personally. Sinterklaas wears a bishop's robes including a red cape and mitre and is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colorful Moorish dress, dating back two centuries. These helpers are called 'Zwarte Pieten' ("Black Petes") or "Père Fouettard" in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
The myth is, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten put all the naughty children in sacks, and Sinterklaas took them to Spain (it is believed that Sinterklaas comes from Spain, where he returns after 5 December). Therefore, many Sinterklaas songs still allude to a watching Zwarte Piet and a judging Sinterklaas. ~Wikipedia
- St. Nicholas Center
- Games, activities, printables, and info about Saint Nicholas.
- A Touch of Dutch
- Chocolate Letter DeHeer (Milk/Melk) 2.5 oz.
The thing about this recipe is that I never saw it made. My dad always made these after we were in bed, so I have the hardest time figuring out what the consistency of the dough should be. Since we don't "do" the whole St. Nicholas/Santa Clause thing with our kids, they have always helped me with these cookies. The finished cookies don't look really appetizing, but they are just slightly sweet and strangely adictive.
Knead into a soft ball. This will be VERY dry. Just keep squishing until it starts to stick together. This is a great job for little ones. If it doesn't start to stick, slowly add in a little sour milk. The less liquid you add in, the better. The finished cookies are supposed to be hard. Form into marble sized balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 20 minutes or until "rather hard."
- 1 1/4 c. flour
- 1 1/4 c. self-rising flour
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 T. water
- 1/4 t. cinnamon
- 1/4 t. nutmeg
- 1/4 t. ground cloves
- 1/4 t. powdered anise seed
- 1/8 t. salt
A Sinterklaas Song