A creative Sinterklaas tradition!

As you know, the evening of Sinterklaas is almost upon us. December 5th is when the children receive their gifts, either straight from Sinterklaas's hand (the anxiety is almost too much!), or left behind at the front door in a big burlap sack because, you know, he's a busy man and he has so many more homes to visit! 

Dinner is often skipped, but the table will be set with coffee or tea, almond paste filled banketstaafgevulde speculaas or regular large speculaas chunks, and may even have worstenbroodjes (sausage rolls), a warm soup, huzarensalade (made with potatoes and boiled beef) or salmon salad, and other snacks. 
After the youngest ones have unwrapped their gifts, nibbled on kruidnoten, drank their hot chocolate and gone off to bed, the adults give their gifts to each other. And here is where it gets to be real fun! 

There are two parts to the gift: one is the surprise (pronounced "sir-PREE-suh") and the other one is the poem. The surprise part is where the giver has taken the time and dedication to build a fun and dedicated wrapping around the gift itself. Not just a piece of pretty paper and a bow, mind you, but a whole construction, sometimes even with moving parts, that hide the real gift. 

This surprise is often reflective of the receiver's hobby, interests or passion. I'll give you some examples: a bird-watcher might receive a handmade papier-maché bird, with a pair of binoculars inside, or a bird book. A fervent baker might find her gift hidden inside a cardboard cake, complete with candles. Here are some other examples I found on Pinterest:

Now, because you are probably a kind and considerate person, you would think that the swimming pool is for a dedicated swimmer, the toolbox for a gifted handyman, and the side-table disguised as a cat for a kitty-lover. Not so fast, reader! Knowing our love for ribbing others or poking fun at their misadventures, these could just as easily be containers for gifts for somebody who failed their swimming diploma for the fifth time, a toolbox for that neighbor that always borrows your tools but never gives them back, or a kitty for somebody who is highly allergic. Those among you who have experienced a Dutch Sinterklaas know what I mean!

The second part is the poem that accompanies the gift. It is usually signed by either Sint or Piet, giving certain anonymity to the writer. This is not a love poem, or a dedication to how well one's behaved over the year, but most probably a gentle fun-poking rhyme about what the surprise represents, or why the gift inside was chosen. The receiver of the gift has to read the poem out loud before opening the gift. 

For example, for the toolbox I found this one here in Dutch. I am posting the translation here: 

Everything neatly together 

A job here, a job there, 
you get to work and it's done. 
But sometimes you have lost the hammer 
and then it takes extra time. 
Or you can no longer find the pliers. 
It is difficult to tie it around your neck! 
Saint hears you cursing under your breath, 
because you're tired of searching! 
So, if you didn't know yet you get a tool box! 
Everything is neatly arranged from now on. 
From combination pliers to earth leakage circuit breaker.


Of course, this rhymes in Dutch! As you can imagine, the more the evening advances, the more fun is to be had. It is wonderful to see how much dedication and attention people have put into finding that one gift, making the decorations and writing the poem. Aside from the gentle fun-poking, it shows real care and love for the person who the gift was for. It's always nice to get a gift, but it is double so nice if every single detail about it is well-thought out.

If you haven't done gift-giving the Dutch way, maybe this year is a good year to start a new tradition! 


  1. That is the part I miss the most about Sinterklaas...the poem and the wrapping of the gift. It was such a creative and fun part of the holidays!

  2. Why won't you let us print the recipes? having to take screenshots etc. is a pain in the ass - it's not like we are stealing stuff? I would promote your stuff to my dutch relatives much more if you were able to print something. What's the reason???
    aagje van arnhem

    1. Hello Aagje, you can print the page easily by right-clicking the page and hitting "print". Make sure to check in the preview if you need one or two pages. I try to organize it in a way that you should have to print the first page only, but sometimes it goes over into the next one.


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