Thursday, November 18, 2010

Utrecht and Sinterklaas!!!

This past Saturday, Kim and I took the train over to Utrecht to do some exploring. As we got off the train we were welcomed by the biggest indoor mall in the Netherlands. We decided we should go see the famous church, canals, and have lunch before we went crazy shopping! As we walked towards the Domkerk, cameras in hand (just being a tourist!), we were stopped by a lady who informed us that there was a parade going on for Sinterklaas!

(For those of you that don't know... most of you probably... Sinterklaas is in other words the Dutch Santa Claus. Although the holiday is actually not celebrated until the evening of December 5th, Sinterklaas arrives a couple weeks earlier by boat from Spain. Sinterklaas is considered a patron saint of children and sailors. Originally, he was a bishop in modern-day Turkey. In medieval times, the feast was both an occasion to help the poor, by giving them food and putting money in their shoes. Today, the children put out a shoe at night and get little goodies in them from Sinterklaas the next morning. It is said that Sinterklaas was accompanied by a little black boy, whom they call Zwarte Piet. Today, there are many Zwarte Piet's, and everyone seems to love dressing like them! Typical treats that kids receive in their shoes are: Chocolate Letters, Papernotes [small, round gingerbread-like cookies], and small toys.)

So.... Saturday was the day that Sinterklaas arrived with all of the Zwarte Piet's! I knew about the holiday already, but the kids had been telling me all week that Sinterklaas was in Holland, and I was confused as to why until the parade! It was pretty cool to watch because the parade was actually by boat on the canals! As the Zwarte Piet's came by, they sang the traditional Sinterklaas song, and all the children sang along! It was fun to see all the children dressed in their Zwarte Piet outfits as well! Reminded me a bit of Christmas at home. Have to love the holiday spirit!!

After this, we finally wandered over to the church and it's famous tower, only to find the parade had also gathered there! The tower and church were once connected, but a storm took out a large part of the church, leaving a sizable courtyard in the middle. This is where the parade seemed to accumulate, including a band of Zwarte Piet musicians! We stayed for a bit and enjoyed the sights, but eventually decided that shopping was calling our name!

After a few hours and some damage done to the bank account (not that much damage..!!), we had to head back to Den Haag to meet up with some teammates for dinner and movie! We joined Steph, Lizzie, and Becky (who plays at Bloomendaal) to see Due Date. (Review: If you liked the Hangover, you will like this movie. Very funny!) Following many laughs, we went to a local cafe in the middle of town for a nice dinner. It was a very relaxing night in the wake of a busy day. At least I know that if I need to do any more shopping while I'm here... Utrecht here I come!


Boats with Zwarte Piet's

Me at the Parade, with the Canals and Church in the background

Me and a Zwarte Piet!

Canals again

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