On the evening of 11th November between 6-8pm, children in many parts of the Netherlands celebrate Sint-Maarten. It is similar to Halloween but polite. No tricks, just treats.

Lanterns are paramount in this event. The old tradition lanterns were hollowed out of sugar beets with a small tea-light candle burning inside. My kids’ school (Waldorf stream) still uses celery root or pumpkin with carvings. Rather like Halloween jack o’ lantern isn’t it? It is customary for kids to make their own lanterns at school or nursery. Most common lanterns are ones made of paper and cellophane, lit by a small battery operated light on a stick. These are widely available at local supermarket for a couple of euros. 

The twilight walk for young children is very exciting. Accompanied by parents, they walk in groups going door-to-door with their lanterns. Enthusiastic children ringing your door bell and belting out a song as soon as they hear door handle clicks even before the it opens up. Sometimes the parents would join in with the singing coaxing the younger children. It is pure entertainment! But do expect older kids up to 12 years old among the visitors.

One of the popular goes like this:
Elf November is de dag
Dat mijn lichtje, dat mijn lichtje
Elf november is de dag
Dat mijn lichtje branden mag.

The eleventh of November is the day
My light, my light
The eleventh of November is the day
That my light may burn

According to my kids, it is a short and easy song to sing. It means ‘quick work’ for the evening.

After the song, it is polite to say something positive and encouraging about their singing or lanterns. For example:
‘Leuk! Goed gedaan!’ means ‘Nice/lovely! Well done!’
‘Heel mooi gezongen, hoor!’ means ‘Beautifully sung!’

After that, comes the reward! Make sure you prepare a tray of candy assortment to impress the children. Watch out for the disapproval look when sweets are not up to their expectation. Brutal honesty at its best!

My kids made-up their mind to stay at home today and welcome the joyful singers. Naturally, we consumed some of the treats while waiting. Late night and my kids are sugar high!

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