Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From Life

Joy of the Holidays

To the Dutch, December fifth is a day of reverence and celebration. To children in the Netherlands, it’s the day Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them their presents! Did you know that the name Santa Claus, comes from Sinterklaas? Most of us have heard the story of coal being left for naughty children, instead of presents. Coal was a gift for the parents, as they could use it in the stove. I suppose it’s only fair, but there’s so much more to the story. Yes, the wooden shoes (klompen) would be put out to be filled with treats, and carrots left for the beautiful, white horse Sinterklaas rode, but the story is even better than that.
As I’ve previously shared, my parents grew up in the Netherlands and my mother’s father was killed in an accident between a motorized vehicle and the team of horses he was driving. Having Sinterklaas magically fill your wooden shoe was always a big deal, but was even more so, after the passing of her father. There wasn’t money for extras, but Sinterklaas and his companion, Zwarte Piet, did visit the schools.
The character of Zwarte Piet, first appeared in an 1850 book by Amsterdam schoolteacher, Jan Schenkman. Sinterklaas rode a beautiful, white horse. Both horse and rider, were resplendent in finery of the season, as was Zwarte Piet. This tradition has continued, until present day, despite some controversy.
This story isn’t about the present. It’s about the years before the second world war and what my mother experienced.
Sinterklass on his white horse, along with Piet, must’ve been quite the sight to the children, as they made their rounds. I’d wager that there wasn’t much schoolwork done, at the time they were to arrive. I can clearly picture the expression on my mother’s face as she remembered and repeated the story, she’d told many times. The sheer joy at the sight of Sinterklaas on the white horse, and Zwarte Piet with his sack of treats was written in her eyes and on her face. It was of joy a child experienced, during very hard times. Sinterklaas was impressive, but Zwarte Piet was the man of the hour.
The children all went out into the hall of the school, where they lined the walls and waited with barely contained excitement. All eyes were on Zwarte Piet as he stood at one end of the long hallway, sack of goodies enticingly at his side. He threw handful after handful the length of the hall while children waiting with bated breath, prepared for the word that would send them scrambling. When it came, the children fell upon the treasure of treats strewn along the hall with unbridled enthusiasm.
As a child, I could imagine it all, the candies and other goodies, the figures from folklore and of course, the horse. I don’t know, which would have been more important to me, if I had been in my mother’s place. My guess is, the horse!

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB