Let the journey be shaped by the curiousity of the child…
Because Maximan is still small we decided to celebrate it in a small way before we shift our attention to Yule and all its preparations.
Last week the good man arrived with his steamboat from Spain. However, we decided to go to Germany for the kick-off of the Yule season. The first fair of the season. Beforehand Maximan and I made a new calender on his blackboard and he decided when he would put his shoes in front of our fireplace. He also decided when we would get a tree and when we would decorate it. However, I decided when we would say goodbye to the good man.
During the week he put his shoe, well not his shoe, both of his boots in front of the fireplace. Both his boots because he could fill these up with treats for the horse of Saint Nicholas. First he would only put carrots in his boots when he realized that horses like apples too. So there went all our apples. That horse must have been really happy! Maximan even put an extra shoe in front of the fireplace for Miniman. That just melted my heart. But wait, he was not done. After the shoething he had to sing a song. Not one! No, he had to sing as many songs as he knew. He was really into it.
The next day he went downstairs to play and totally forgot about his boots or Miniman’s. it took him over an hour to realize there was a present in there. He was thrilled. When he unwrapped the gift he was ecstatic, for it was a dinosaur.
Today he met the good man and his helpers. It was so much fun. When he realized Sinterklaas was about to enter the building he needed to make a gift instantly for Sinterklaas. Since it was his birthday, right. So he got himself some paper and a pencil and started drawing. He finished just in time to give Sinterklaas his birthday present. Maximan was genuinely surprised that Sinterklaas his helpers had a gift for him and Miniman. It was a great experience.
Right now in his shoe is a final gift from the good man, together with a note. That this will be the last time for now but that he enjoys Maximan his singing and if he will continue with that. Oh and not to forget that the horse, again, is very happy with all the treats.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, Saint Nicholas’ Eve (5 December) is the primary occasion for gift-giving, when his reputed birthday is celebrated.
In the days leading up to 5 December (starting when Saint Nicholas has arrived by steamboat around mid-November), young children put their shoes in front of the chimneys and sing Sinterklaas songs. Often they put a carrot or some hay in the shoes, as a gift to St. Nicholas’ horse. (In recent years the horse has been named Amerigo in The Netherlands and Slechtweervandaag in Flanders.) The next morning they will find a small present in their shoes, ranging from sweets to marbles or some other small toy. On the evening of 5 December, Sinterklaas brings presents to every child who has behaved well in the past year (in practice, just as with Santa Claus, all children receive gifts without distinction). This is often done by placing a bag filled with presents outside the house or living room, after which a neighbour or parent bangs the door or window, pretending to be Sinterklaas’ assistant. Another option is to hire or ask someone to dress up as Sinterklaas and deliver the presents personally. Sinterklaas wears a bishop’s robes including a red cape and mitre and is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful Moorish dress, dating back two centuries. These helpers are called ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (“Black Petes”) or “Père Fouettard” in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
The myth is that, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten put all the naughty children in sacks, and Sinterklaas took them to Spain (it is believed that Sinterklaas comes from Spain, where he returns after 5 December). Therefore, many Sinterklaas songs still allude to a watching Zwarte Piet and a judging Sinterklaas.
In the past number of years, there has been a recurrent discussion about the perceived politically incorrect nature of the Moorish helper. In particular Dutch citizens with backgrounds from Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles might feel offended by the Dutch slavery history connected to this emblem and regard the Zwarte Pieten to be racist. Others state that the black skin color of Zwarte Piet originates in his profession as a chimneysweep, hence the delivery of packages though the chimney. 
In recent years, Christmas (along with Santa Claus) has been pushed by shopkeepers as another gift-giving festival, with some success; although, especially for young children, Saint Nicholas’ Eve is still much more important than Christmas. The rise of Father Christmas (known in Dutch as de Kerstman) is often cited as an example of globalisation and Americanisation.