Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shoes by the fire place

Tonight in homes across Belgium (Holland, Luxembourg and parts of France. Maybe even in Austria, Poland and Romania but I’m not 100% sure about these countries) kids will be leaving their shoes by the fireplace with some carrots, sugar cubes and cookies.

Right, I know it’s not Christmas eve so why are they doing it? Well it’s because tonight we are expecting Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas, as he is called in Dutch.

So who exactly is Saint Nicholas? Well, the story goes something like this:

During the fourth century ‘Saint’ Nicholas was a bishop who lived in Myra (Turkey). He was a very kind man known feed starving children and saving maidens and in later years sailors would pray to him for safe keeping.

It is understood that Spanish sailors first introduced Saint Nicholas to the Dutch people during the 16th century, when Spain ruled Holland. In keeping with this tradition Saint Nicholas arrives by boat from Spain around the 17th of November every year. He then travels around with this trusty steed and one or more helper(s), Swarte Piet (Black Pete). There are many stories explaining why Pete is black … some say it is because he used to work down in the coal mines and is black because of the dust, others say it’s because the original Saint Nicholas had a dark skinned (Moor) helper.

But whatever the reason may be, St. Nicholas, Swarte Piet and the horse travel around the country writing down the names of all the good kids in a big book. Then on the night of the 5th they will bring presents to those children whose names can be found in the book. If you haven’t been a good boy/girl you might just find some coal or salt in your shoe, in stead of a present.

Then on December the 6th after all the presents have been delivered they travel back to Spain.

He doesn’t really have anything to do with Christmas so it’s just pure coincidence that he comes just 20 days before Santa.

Tonight Cat and Tiger will be leaving their shoes by the fireplace hoping to find something other than a piece of coal in it tomorrow morning.

images via Google Images


  1. what a great story i didn't know this thank you for sharing

  2. Very cool tradition! I've actually heard of this before. We went to Disney World around Christmas and Epcot had a special "Christmas" story for all of the different countries. When I heard this one, I was just thinking to myself...I really hope those shoes are clean! Who wants to eat a cookie out of a shoe? :o)

    1. Haha! I was thinking the same thing!

  3. I love this and love hearing about some of your traditions that are so different from ours here.

  4. wow, great story! so, will they be getting presents? :)

  5. What a neat tradition...I hope that your children have neat surprises in their shoes, and not coal or salt! Keep us posted!!!

  6. Oh, and thanks for posting the story of St. Nick!

  7. The similarities between this tradition and the Christmas tradition are remarkably similar though, hey? One has to wonder if people didn't dig into the eggnog a bit and become confused. :D

  8. very nice... and very much like our santa tradition. Will you give gifts at Christmas, too? my kids would love 2 days to get presents!

  9. I remember you telling me about this before - such a neat tradition.

  10. We have a book about different holiday traditions over the world and Nolan really, really wanted to do the shoes thing last year. We had to compromise by putting carrots out with the cookies for Santa. :)