Organising a Sinterklaas party for non-believers

Mid November every year Sinterklaas arrives in Belgium and the Netherlands, together with his servants that are throwing ‘pepernoten’ and ‘tumtummetjes’ into the crowds. Hundreds of children are welcoming him, singing and expecting presents in their shoe. But that’s the Sinterklaasfeest for children. The Sinterklaasfeest for the older non-believers is very different.

WHO IS SINTERKLAAS IN THIS CONTEXT?

Sinterklaas is a moralising bishop with characteristics of a Spanish inquisitor. He wants you to be good and he will look closely at traits you can improve upon. When he gives you a present, it will be in this spirit and he will preach his message in the attached Sinterklaas-poem.

ORGANISING A SINTERKLAAS PARTY

There are different ways to organise a Sinterklaas-party at school or at home with friends or family. The most common one is:

  1. Draw a name
  2. Set a price limit for the present
  3. Think of a theme
  4. Buy a present
  5. Make a surprise gift and/or a poem
  6. Pack the present
  7. Come together, unpack the presents and keep the secret

1. Draw a name

Let’s say you have a group of 8 people. Everyone has to give one person a present. Put 8 pieces of paper with a name in a box and let everyone draw a name without looking. Do not reveal what name you have drawn. If the group is not physically together, you can use an online service to draw the names.

Do not wait till the last moment for the drawing, but give people the time to be creative.

2. Set a price limit

The value of the presents should all be the same. It is very embarrassing when you give an expensive perfume and others give a phone case or a towel. A good price limit for the presents is 15€. Remember that it is not about the present, but about the creativity.

3. Think of a theme

What character flaw does your person have? Improving on this, should be the theme of the surprise gift. Let’s say that your person is always late.

4. Buy a present

For a person who’s always late you can buy an alarm clock, an organiser or a book on time management.

5a. Make a surprise gift

The real creatives are doing both a ‘surprise’ (look up the Dutch pronunciation on Forvo) and a poem, but most people end up doing only one, because they started too late preparing. Luckily you can find a lot of ideas online. Just google on ‘Sinterklaas surprises maken’. In our case we could make an alarm clock of paper mache and hide the real alarm clock inside.

5b. Write a poem

The poem has to be a bit patronising: they are always late and Sinterklaas doesn’t like that. He hopes that they improve on this bad behaviour and therefore he bought them this particular present. Sign the poem as ‘Sinterklaas’ or ‘de Sint’, never with your own name.

Of course the poem has to rhyme. You can use a Dutch rhyming dictionary to help you find the words.

6. Pack the present

The type of wrapping paper is not very important, as long as the name of the receiver is clearly written on it. If you have a poem, you can print it out, fold it, tape it to the present and write their name on it.

7. The Sinterklaas party

Put your package on the pile. Do not let people see what package you put down. If everyone is there, the host – or someone else – can randomly pick a package and read the name. The receiver then first has to read the poem, before unpacking. When they are ready, they can pick the next package.

Afterwards the speculations starts: who made what present for who? This is part of the fun, so do not reveal the secret. You can even act shocked or surprised that the others do not believe in Sinterklaas anymore. Shame on them!

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Roelien Reinders
Taaltraining Trancemissie

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