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ESN Dutch Tradition: Secret Sinterklaas

Hello everyone! When you think about December, you think about Christmas. But did you know that on the 5th of December, Pakjesavond is celebrated in the Netherlands? On this evening, Sinterklaas goes by everyone’s house to bring around presents.

This year, ESN Groningen is organising one big Secret Sinterklaas celebration! Do you like giving presents, but also receiving them? Then this event is perfect for you! If you sign up, you agree to buy one or more presents for someone randomly assigned to you.

  • On Monday the 22nd of November, the sign-ups will close and we will draw names. This means that everyone is assigned someone else’s name and wish list. It is then your job to buy presents for this person worth 5 euros.
  • Before Thursday the 2nd of December, you have to bring your present(s) to the ESN Office (Pelsterstraat 23).
  • On Monday the 6th of December, you can pay Sinterklaas a visit to the ESN office to pick up your presents!

Signing up is free, but it does mean that you agree to spend 5 euros of your own money on presents. However, you of course also get presents!

Sign-up via this Google Form.

The sign-up deadline is the 22nd of November at 13:00. After this date, you will not be able to cancel anymore, as it would mean that someone would be without presents.

You can write a poem/letter with your present, but this is optional. Please indicate on the sign-up form if you want to write a poem/letter with your present(s).

What is Sinterklaas?

Sinterklaas is a typical Dutch (children’s) party celebrated on the 5th of December. The story is that Sinterklaas comes to the Netherlands with his sidekick Piet. They come from Spain on a big boat somewhere around mid-November. Sinterklaas rides a white horse called Amerigo. During the time that Sinterklaas is in the Netherlands, he goes out at night and walks on top of the roofs of all the houses. He has a big book in which he writes down everything about all the children in the Netherlands and also if you have been naughty or nice. Originally, the story goes that nice children would get candy and presents while Sinterklaas would take the naughty children back to Spain with him in a big jute bag. In this day and age, when families celebrate the holiday, all the children get presents. Children can also put down their shoes in front of the fireplace or front door. They usually put a carrot or something nice in their shoe for Amerigo and they also put it in their present wishlist. The next morning, candy, pepernoten or a small present can be found in the shoe brought to them by Sinterklaas that night. The wishlist and carrot is gone. Then on the 5th of December, the family comes together to open presents, eat pepernoten, and have a good time!


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