When Sinterklaas is in Town …

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When Sinterklaas is in town … it is a 3 and a half weeks long of pretentious game.

Since my other half (who is Dutch) is away on business, for the first time ever, I have to deal with the whole Dutch Sinterklaas tradition all by myself!

Here is the drill: 
My kids try really hard to be on their best behavior the entire Sinterklaas period. This year, it is from 12 November till 5 December 2016.
On ‘Shoes Setting Days’, they will get all creative making wonderful drawings, personal letters, wish lists and produce little presents for Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) and/or Sinterklaas. Tremendous effort!
There will be excessive singing so the Good Holy Man would hear and visit us later that night. Supposedly, old man Sinterklaas rides his horse over rooftops in the dark and delivering presents through the chimneys to the well-behaved children. Not ridiculous at all!
Right before bedtime, my kids will put out one side of their shoes near the back door or front door (we got no chimney), stuffed with what they have made as offerings along with a carrot, a sugar cube and/or some hay for Amerigo; the white-grey horse from Sinterklaas. There could be a glass of milk for Black Pete and a glass of wine for Sinterklaas. Whatever make them sleep at night! When the morning comes, my kids would find small presents fitting in their shoes with extras such as sweets, chocolates, pepernoten, etc. They will be so ecstatic showing me what they have received while I avoid eye-contact not to show my distress, avoiding the truth. 

This routine can be repeated a few times a week depending on your allocated budget and household tradition. Due to peer pressure, I allow this practice to go on 2x per week. Of course, my kids could set their shoes everyday, but they shall receive no presents. Occasionally, I have to conjure up believable excuses on behalf of Sint about his absence and teach my kids lessons on being greedy and be grateful instead.

The celebration of Sinterklaas has been going on for at least 700 years in the Netherlands. It is an evolving tradition. My 8 year old son is still a believer while my 11 year old daughter happy to play along as long as she gets presents too. We got to keep the act going!
Because it is a costly affair, it has been a great challenge for me to find 2 weekly ‘smart’ presents x 3 weeks x 2 kids + different sweets and chocolates at affordable prices. Don’t even get me started on 5 December – Pakjesavond (translation: Presents Night) when there will be more presents not just for the kids. Right now, I am letting Sinterklaas gets the credit for all the fabulous presents I bought. All these lies … I am sure I will be on Santa’s naughty list comes Christmas. But then again, I am a Buddhist and karma is a huge deal.
I am so conflicted!

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