(Photo used by permission of Héloïse Schep)
Freshman Héloïse Schep’s fifth-grade class sits down for their annual Sinterklaas dinner in 2011. According to Schep, students wore black at this three- or four-course meal.

Cultures around the world have special ways of celebrating the holiday season. In the “12 Days of Christmas” series, sophomores Jack Christian and Allison Zhang will interview students and teachers on their international Christmas experiences. Check back tomorrow to hear about Christmas in Japan from sophomore Atsuo Chiu.

Christmas in the Netherlands is called Sinterklaas, and Santa doesn’t come to your house. Sinterklaas does.

Sinterklaas comes to houses on Dec. 5, not Dec. 25.

“We open our presents on Dec. 5, but Sinterklaas actually comes a whole month before,” freshman Héloïse Schep, who lived in the Netherlands until fifth grade, said.

(Photo used by permission of Héloïse Schep)
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet visit with Dutch children.

That’s because Sinterklaas arrives on a boat from Spain around the beginning of November.

“It is a big deal,” Schep said.

“His arrival is broadcasted all over TV, and it’s apparently a really expensive ordeal too.”

Once Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands, he travels throughout the country and visits elementary schools, including Schep’s.

Sinterklaas would always come to our school and cause a ton of mischief,” Schep said.

“He would turn over desks, crumple papers and even leave a trail of candy throughout our school.”

In addition to causing mischief, Sinterklaas rides into schools on a horse and hands out candy and presents.

(Photo used by permission of Héloïse Schep)
Freshman Héloïse Schep and her grandmother ice skate. A wooden village was built around the rink.

But on Sinterklaas (the holiday has the same name), stockings are not left out to be filled by Sinterklaas.

Children instead leave their shoes out to receive small gifts!

“We also leave out carrots and a glass of water for Sinterklaas’s horse,” Schep said.

Even though Sinterklaas is a major character in the Netherlands, Schep was never too fond of him.

“I remember hating Sinterklaas because he messed up everything at school,” she said.

“And I actually didn’t believe in Sinterklaas after I turned 3, so I would always go around and spoil it for other children.”

(Photo used by permission of Héloïse Schep)
On the last day before break, the older children in freshman Héloïse Schep’s elementary school would make paper lanterns for the younger kids. Then the students would walk around the school, ending at their Christmas tree to sing carols.

But because Schep’s family is from England, she celebrated a traditional Christmas too.

“During winter break, which is around the same time as Christmas, we would head down to our house in France and celebrate a normal Christmas,” she said.

By Jack Christian

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