I grew up hoping I’d get a letter in the mail from Santa Claus, and so do the Dutch children. But, there’s one key difference: my letter was made of paper, and theirs is made of chocolate.
That’s right, Sinterklaas literally brings them a letter. It’s usually either milk, dark, or white chocolate, and it will be shaped into the first letter of their name. For example, he would bring me a big A.
At first I thought this tradition was super cool (because it is), but then I started to wonder why it happens. A little bit of research has taught me that it evolved from kids in the Middle Ages getting bread letters for various reasons, and this got an update when Sinterklaas started coming around. The kids would have their loot piled under a sheet, and they would be marked with each child’s first initial so they could find theirs. When chocolate production got better, the labels became more delicious.
It kind of makes you rethink those boring gift tags on your presents, doesn’t it?
I walked into work on Thursday morning, and there were little wrapped presents sitting on all of the desks. Mine was clearly for me (since my name was on the tag, which also had the bosses Photoshopped as Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet), but I found a milk chocolate “Z” inside.
Is there some Dutch employment law that means you have to change your name to work there? “Hi, I’m Zalex.”
No, I asked a few of my coworkers, and they all got Zs, too. Maybe the company budget is thin since it’s the end of the year, and the store wanted to get rid of a letter that no children ever want?
Nope, that’s not it either. After thinking about it a while, I realized the company name starts with Z, so it was a little bit of corporate propaganda. Who knew that company pride could taste so delicious?
A few of my colleagues got a dark chocolate S (which supposedly stands for Sint, the Dutch word for saint and another name for Santa), but one guy got a white chocolate P. What’s that about?
So many questions…
Maybe that’s just how Sinterklaas works. Take my advice: when an ancient saint hops on a boat from Spain to give you presents, I don’t think it’s really an appropriate question to ask what’s up with the spelling lesson.
Thanks, Sinterklaas, and Merry Christmas!
Dutch word of the day:
This probably means exactly what you’d expect it to. It’s another case of Dutch and English being pretty similar!