Dank u Sinterklaas!

Day 6 in our ChristmasCalendar2019!
Food: Chocolate and other Saint Nicholas day goodies

We’re that time of year again! I started baking decorated cookies this weekend and maybe you got your 6th surprise today from your Christmas calendar, like Paula did. In Belgium, where I grew up, children woke up to the best day of the year: Saint Nicholas day! Yesterday they put their shoe close to the chimney (or in lack of that, a window) and this morning they found it filled with candy along with the present that they – hopefully – wished for.

But it’s not only the children that get sweets. With a little luck, working in Belgium, you’ll have a surprise on your office desk as well. As when I was performing my PhD back home and had to clear my desk of candy before starting work on the 6th of December. Of course, the Saint is by that time long gone but it is traditional to say “Dank u Sinterklaas!” out loud anyway, which we would do during the lab meeting and presume our secret gift giver would have heard.

A typical find on a 6th December morning in a Belgian office
Picture by Sergey Sulima

Only after the Saint’s visit, Belgian households start decorating for Christmas. This is to make sure Saint Nicholas doesn’t think you are waiting for the American Saint Nic instead.

So, there’s a little battle of the saints every year in Belgium although in fact, the American Santa (which we call Kerstman or “Christmas man” to not confuse him with the true Saint) is derived from his ancestor Sint Nicolaas, who was brought to the new world by Dutch immigrants. Santa Claus now has made the journey back to Europe and appears not infrequently as decoration around Christmas in Belgium as he does elsewhere. Although he hasn’t been promoted to bringing any presents just yet.

Our celebrations are thus ever changing but one thing is constant: the food we love takes central stage. In Belgium, little chocolate figurines of Santa (what did you expect?) are available as a Christmas treat, very similar to those of Saint Nicholas on the 6th.

So whichever way you are celebrating the holidays at the end of the year, I hope you are doing it with people that you care about and I hope, no in fact I am certain, it will involve the food you love! 😊

On the left a traditional Saint Nicholas figurine in Belgian chocolate and on the right a similar sweet treat in the form of “little Christmas men”.
Picture by Maggie Hofman

Enjoy!

Oh and “Dank u Sinterklaas!”

Featured image from R vT via Pixabay

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