Sinterklaas visits the
Mesier Homestead in 2019
Each year, the Wappingers Historical Society celebrates the Dutch custom of Sinterklaas in recognition of the original Dutch owners of the Historic Mesier Homestead in the Village of Wappingers Falls. We had been looking forward to sharing our program with you in-person, but this year we come to you virtually so that we can all stay safe and healthy for the holidays!
Sinterklaas, also known as Saint Nicholas, is dear to the hearts of Dutch children and would have been celebrated in the Mesier Homestead by both the Brower and Mesier families.
St. Nicholas Day is celebrated annually on December 6th, but in The Netherlands the major celebrations are held on December 5th, St. Nicholas Eve, or Sinterklaasavond.
The feast of Sinterklaas celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children and a kindly man who was very generous to the poor. Early Dutch settlers brought their holiday traditions with them to New Netherland when they came here from Holland.
Sinterklaas himself was said to have come from Spain, arriving each year in mid November by steamboat to a port. The steamboat anchors, then Sinterklaas disembarks and parades through the streets on his white horse, Amerigo, welcomed by children cheering and singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. In the weeks between his arrival and December 5th (Sinterklaasavond) , Sinterklaas also visits places in the community. Before going to bed in the evening children put their shoes next to the fireplace or outside the front door in the hopes that Sinterklaas will leave a sweet treat in their shoe. In their shoe, they leave a carrot or some hay and a bowl of water nearby "for Sinterklaas' horse", and the children sing a Sinterklaas song. The next day good children may find some candy or a small present in their shoes; naughty children may find a small sack of salt.
Sinterklaasavond (St. Nicholas eve) is celebrated in the home with stories, games, and the traditional Dutch sweets which are an important part of the festivities. In Holland, it is more common to give presents on Sinterklaas than at Christmas, which is a day to spend with family and attend a church ceremony.
Share in our Virtual Sinterklaas Celebration
Some would say they are the most important part of the Sinterklaas celebration!
It wouldn’t be Sinterklaas without sweets! Some of these traditional cookies can be found at your local grocery store and we’ve included some recipes as well in case you’d like to try making them at home.
Two of the most recognizable treats for Sinterklaas are chocolate letters and Pepernoten, Chocolate letters can either be a large “S” for Sinterklaas or the letter of your child’s first name. Pepernoten, translated as “pepper nuts” are traditional small cookies, similar in taste to gingerbread, but with the hardness of a nut. They are approximately the size of a walnut, and are a favorite by children and adults alike during the time leading up to Sinterklaas. You can find an easy recipe for Pepernoten here.
Dutch Zoete Koek Spice Bread
Spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are found in many of the foods associated with the celebration of Sinterklaas. The reason why is because spices were brought to Europe, and Holland in particular, from the Far East by a trading company called The Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch), which was created in 1602 and lasted until 1800. This huge, successful trading company is considered to be one of the first international corporations, first trading spice found in Indonesia, and later expanding throughout Asia. By 1669, it was the richest company in the world. Spices were so important because they helped hide the flavor of not-so-fresh or heavily salted food, which was common due to lack of refrigeration.
In a Dutch Zoete Koek, a sweet quick-bread, spices are the star! Combining cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves, this blend of spices brings warmth to this easy-to-make bread which tastes more like a cake. It is delicious slathered in butter or cream cheese!
Spices and nuts are very important to the Dutch, and these ingredients are the stars in Marizpan (a sweet almond paste) and Speculoos (a spice cookie, known in the U.S. as “Windmill Cookies”). Traditionally, Speculoos are shaped with a wooden mold or roller, but you can simply roll them out and cut into rectangles. Whatever the shape – they still taste delicious!
Butter Cookies and Stroopwafel
Other traditional Sinterklaas treats include Butter Cookies and Stroopwafel. Stroopwafel are a year-round treat, combining very thin waffle cookies on the top and bottom with a gooey layer of caramel in between. You can warm them gently over a cup of hot tea to make the caramel extra gooey!
And don't forget to bake a batch of Kerstkranzen to decorate the tree for Christmas. Kerstkranzen are butter cookies shaped like a wreath, decorated with almonds, and hung from the tree with ribbons.
Crafts ideas for the children
This tree ornament is an easy craft for the littles ones! Construction paper, glue, and a sweet treat for the wooden shoe is all that is needed. The Miter represents Saint Nicholas the Bishop (Sinterklaas) and the wood shoe represents the Dutch children. A sweet treat in the shoe is for all the good children!
A large variety of oranges come from Spain, the country from where Sinterklaas begins his travels. So naturally, oranges decorated with spices – cloves, for example – are the perfect decoration for the Sinterklaas holiday! Plus, they add a wonderful scent throughout the room!
This craft will require the help of an adult to make the holes in the orange for the cloves to go in. The design is up to you – use your imagination! Helpful tips: use a knitting needle to make the holes for the cloves to go in. It is also easier on the fingers if you use a thimble to help push in the cloves. Decorate the mantel with the oranges along with some fresh greenery, or simply put a few oranges in a decorative bowl.
More information on our Story Time book
and a fun song to learn to welcome Sinterklaas
If you enjoyed the Sinterklaas story as presented in our concluding video, and would like to find a copy of it to read with your child or grandchild, here is a little more information. The title is Sinterklaas, written by Kathy Dodson. The ISBN-13 number is 978-0998282039. This illustrated storybook is appropriate for Preschool – Grade 3
During our Sinterklaas celebration last year at the Mesier Homestead, "Mrs. Mesier" sang this Dutch song with the children who attended our program. "Sinterklaasje, bonne,bonne, bonne" is a lively Dutch song that is fun for the children to learn. Here is the Dutch, alongside the English translation:
Sinterklaasje, bonne, bonne, bonne Dear, dear, dear Saint Nicholas
Sinterklaasje, bonne, bonne, bonne. Dear, dear, dear Saint Nicholas
Gooi wat in mijn lege, lege tonne. Throw something in my empty, empty barrel
Gooi wat in mijn laarsje! Throw something in my boot!
Dank u, Sinterklaasje! Thank you, Saint Nicholas!
Sinterklaas is glad to hear
That you are very good this year.
We wish you a happy year ahead
And hope to see you at the Mesier Homestead!