Michel and Edith, who I visited in Den Bosch last week, invited me to Edith's parents house for Sinta Klaas dinner this week. They live quite a long way away, near the Belgian border in the countryside. We had hoped to have a walk in the countryside but the weather was dreadful, and I got on the wrong train for the first time in my life and was half an hour late to meet them in Den Bosch. But off we went, to Bergeijk, so I could experience Sinta Klaas chez Edith's parents.
It is one of the major mysteries of childhood that Santa manages to visit all the children in one night. Children are egocentric, and don't understand that other people have other traditions.
Eventually you figure out that there are places he gets to skip - Antarctica, bits of Africa, much of the Arabian Gulf. And recently I've learned that he has a few collegues that get to deliver to certain places too. For example, the Dutch Sinterklaas is not the same guy as the UK/USA Santa. For a start, he lives in Spain, not the North Pole, and comes to the Netherlands in a boat. Also, instead of elves, he has a helper/ group of helpers called Schwartz Piet (I'm not sure that that's how it's spelled!) who deliver the wish lists to him and tell him if children have been good or not. See? 16 million fewer deliveries for our Santa. Another logistical mystery resolved. This year, I am genuinely spoiled rotten. I have been so good this year, that Sinterklaas had a word with Santa and when he visited my friend Michel's parents in law, he left an extra chocolate letter for me there.
Sinterklaas - note the bishop's hat - and BlackPete with his sack
This was very, very kind of him, and I am very grateful. I have some german cookies too, and got to try some Dutch sintaklaas food. These included the Gourmet Grill thing - a sort of table top grill come frying pan that you fry meat and veg on and cook omelettes underneath, served with lots of salad, and lots of the kruidnotte/ peppernotte (again, not sure of the spelling!) cookies that taste like miniature ginger nuts. Some of these were coated in chocolate and candy and looked like giant M&Ms - definately a missed opportunity in the UK! And there was filled Speklous (spelling? No idea - help, Dutch friends!) which I absoloutely loved. It's like the cake version of gingerbread (not the cookie kind) but filled with marzipan.
We also played the world's friendliest game of monopoly and walked the big dog. I love big dogs, and really miss my mum's, so that was great. I got to play with toy cars with the neices and nephews, who couldn't believe that anyone is so stupid that they can't speak Dutch, and had a really great day.
I just need to stay good so Santa Claus visits me too now!