Penpalling & Letters

Friday, 3 December 2010


Deirdre is welcoming us in her land to tell us about a lovely tradition which occurs every 5th of December in her country. Those of you who come from this place already know where we are travelling today, but for those who still don't know, let me tell you some characteristics about it. Deirdre's homeland has a lot of land area gained to the sea, preserved by a system of polders and dikes. Most part of the country is very flat and 50% of its territory is lying less than one metre above sea level. This country is located in northwestern Europe and also has territories in the Caribbean. Typical stereotypes when people think about this land are tulips, mills, wooden shoes, canals or cheese but be sure that the Netherlands are much more than these!

Deirdre likes postcards very much and she presents her collection in her Blog: "Loved by you". Don't forget to have a look at it to check Deirdre's great postcard collection! Maybe she is interested in exchanging postcards with you!

Hello Deirdre! Thanks for taking part in Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background section and of course, welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Could you tell us where do you exactly come from in the Netherlands?

Hello there! I'm living in Hellevoetsluis, which is a town in the province Zuid-Holland and has a population of 39,799 people. Hellevoetsluis is located on the Haringvliet and has always been connected with water. During the time of the United Provinces, Hellevoetsluis was the naval port of the Admiralty of de Maze (Rotterdam) and could accommodate an entire fleet within a special land-enclosed fortress with harbour and dockyard facilities, accessible through a canal. Thanks to its strategic situation the town grew from the beginning of the 17th century to be the homeport for the Dutch war fleet. In later years the port was fortified more and more and Hellevoetsluis therefore became a unique combination of fortified town and naval port. The Admirals Maarten Tromp, Michiel de Ruyter and Piet Heyn had their home base here and in 1688, during the Glorious Revolution, William III of Orange's invasion fleet departed from the port.

How did you discover penpalling, Deirdre? How long have you been into it?

I've just started with penpalling about one month ago. I've sent out several introduction letters and waiting on response at the moment. I'm an active postcrosser for over a year but sometimes I miss the further contact with others. When I stumbled upon your website I started thinking about penpalling. So thanks to you I started with penpalling! :)

How did you get to know Postcrossing? Have you been into it for a long time now?

I was an active blogger and through other bloggers I came in contact with Postcrossing. Since the moment I registered myself I loved it! Everywhere I go I buy postcards: on holidays, daytrips and even during shopping! I always buy, at least, a card for myself and one to send out when I'm visiting a city. I am busy with a photobook of cards so that I can look back at all the places I've visited.

Are you interested in these cute things related to penpalling as stationery, stickers, nice pens? Do you also collect other stuff?

Yes, I love everything what has to do with letters! I have a weak for all kind of cute stationary, postcards, stickers and deco tape... I even use stickers on my postcards! I love if I receive special stamps on the postcards, but I don't collect them. I collect addresses. I'm going to send everybody who mentioned their address on the postcard they have sent me a Christmas card!

Let's listen Deirdre now so she can tell us about "Sinterklaas" and how they celebrate it in the Netherlands.

Sinterklaas is a traditional winter holiday in the Netherlands. But it is not only celebrated here, but also in Belgium, Aruba, Suriname and Netherlands Antilles. It is celebrated every 5th of December in the evening (Saint Nicholas' eve). In Belgium it is celebrated on the 6th of December in the morning.
The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of Amsterdam, children and sailors. He is the basis of the mythical holiday figure of Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas is also celebrated in some regions of France (Nord-Pas de Calais, Alsace, Lorraine) as well as in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, in the town of Trieste and in the east of Friuli (Italy).

The modern tradition of Sinterklaas as a children's feast was confirmed with the illustrated children's book "Sint Nicolaas en zijn knecht" (Saint Nicholas and His Servant) written in 1850 by Jan Schenkman (1806–1863). He introduced the images of Sinterklaas delivering presents by the chimney, riding over the roofs of houses on a grey horse and arriving from Spain by steamboat.

It is said that throughout the year Sinterklaas lives in Spain together with his Zwarte Piet, who accompanies Sinterklaas and helps him delivering the gifts. Every year in the middle of November they come with the "stoomboot" to the Netherlands.

The entry of Sinterklaas occurs in a different Dutch city every year. In 2010 it will be in Harderwijk. Kids will gather together in Harderwijk and in front of the TV because the entry will be live on television!

When Sinterklaas is in the Netherlands all the kids are allowed to put their shoe by the door or chimney. They have to sing a song and put a treat in the shoe for Sinterklaas or his horse. The next morning there will be a small treat in the shoe for the kids. This can be a small present or candy. Typical Sinterklaas candy are: kruidnoten, peppernoten, chocoladeletters, taai taai, schuimpjes and a whole lot more!

Chocoladeletters, taataai and schuimpjes

When I was a child Sinterklaas always came after dinner, around 19:30. He knocked loudly on the door, I ran to the door and found a big bag of presents. The whole evening I unwrapped presents and played with my new toys!

So this is Sinterklaas for the Dutch!

Have everybody who celebrate it a nice Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas! And see you soon sharing traditions from your part of the world! Maybe you are the next one!

If you are interested in reading more articles related to the Christmas time and New Year's, check the following:

- Sinterklaas
- The Saint Nicholas tradition
- The Christmas Season in Spain
- New Year's Celebrations
- The Three Kings Day or "Día de Reyes"


  1. That's how us Americans gotten our Santa Claus from the netherlands. We just copied them and changed it around.

  2. Oho, interesting tradition. In Bulgaria, we have it a bit differently. No chocolates for us! But more healthy stuff - fish! Hehehe. No kidding! So a bit background information: Dec 6th is known as Nikul Den (den means day in Bulgarian, and Nikul is a derivate word for a Nicolas, Nikolay, Nikola, Nikolina and any variations of the name. It's a name day after St.Nicolas - so there are a lot of similiarities so far. But since St. Nicolas is patron of sailors, we eat fish. No chocolates! :( I am hitching a hide to Amsterdam! Hehhehe. On the upside, anyone who has a name derivate from the Saint's name has a name day - pretty much like a big day to celebrate your name with parties and sweets!

    And finally, this is a great post! I have already retwitted it to all my friends!!! I loved reading it (can I quote you on the pages of our penpal and swappers magazine and also put it on our website? Of course, giving credit to you! Just wondering)!