Once a year, something truly magical happens in the Netherlands. The beginning of September marks the start of this long awaited 163 year old Dutch tradition. All over the Low Countries, speculaas (spiced cookies), kruidnoten (mini spiced cookies), pepernoten (small aniseed flavored honey cookies), marzipan, almond filled pastries and chocolate letters start appearing on supermarket shelves in anticipation of this beloved event.
Can anyone guess what this tradition could be? Sinterklaas!
Anticipation builds up with the first appearance of theses Dutch Sinterklaas treats, followed by the official nationally televised arrival of Sinterklass and his Pieten. Director of the Dutch Center for Folk Culture Ineke Strouken’s “Dit Zijn Wij” (This Is Who We Are) recognizes the celebration of Sinterklaas as the most important tradition of modern day Dutch culture. The once reserved, pragmatic Dutch become sentimental fools, preparing months in advance for this special night when Sinterklaas and all his helpers, the Pieten, bring gifts to children and adults.
The Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas and all the pure enchantment surrounding it is simply unbelievable until you witness it yourself. Everyone is in on it -the government, the local municipality, cities, towns, villages, local businesses, offices, schools, parents and even children old enough to know the ruse. Utmost care and attention to detail is taken so that children (usually those 6 and under) wholeheartedly believe that on the eve of the 5th of December, Sinterklaas and his Pieten are going to leave each and every one of them a present.
Naughty children were once warned that they would be sent to Spain (where Sinterklaas and the Pieten live). However, children these days quickly caught on about the glorious Mediterranean hotspot promising sunnier horizons and delicious food. Thus, warning them that their misbehavior might lead them to a free trip to Spain isn’t usually recommended.
Inspired by this beloved Dutch tradition, Spanish Basque author and expat mother Kristina G. Langarika wrote a special Sinterklaas story called “Lola’s Sint” for her half-African daughter. Without giving too much away, Lola’s Sint is about a little girl named Lola who has an unforgettable adventure with the Pieten. For one wondrous night, Lola gets to join the Pieten and experiences first hand what goes behind the scenes on that special night.
(Author Kristina G. Langarika and her daughter making Lola’s Sint)
My heart also jumped for joy when I found out that the story is also written in both Dutch and English. I was ecstatic to find a story that fosters the “one parent one language” (OPOL) system. Children’s books that cater towards the OPOL system are very few and are such a treasure to find.
What’s also amazing is that Langarika also illustrated the book herself along with her daughter’s help! See the video below:
I highly recommend the book for children three years of age and older. My 17th month old son loved the vibrant, colorful illustrations but was not yet mature enough to follow the special tale.
For more information or if you’d like to order yourself a copy for your loved one, please go to www.lolassint.nl.
You can also grab yourself your very own copy of Lola’s Sint from these following bookstores:
1016 RH Amsterdam
tel: +31 (020) 626 42 3
1012 XE Amsterdam
1012 XA Amsterdam
tel: +31( 020) 625 5537
Disclaimer: Author Kristina G. Langarika has generously gifted my son his very own copy of Lola’s Sint. Please note, however, that my first responsibility is to my readers and I am committed to writing only honest reviews. As you can understand, being transparent, genuine and open with my readers is of utmost importance to me so opinions presented on Finding Dutchland will always be my own, and will not be influenced by compensation.