“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
- Matthew 7:7-12
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
- Revelation 19:11-16
My wife’s father was a Dutchman from Freisland in the northern part of the Netherlands. She celebrated Sinterklaas day on 5 December. The tradition was to put out your wooden shoes, with some hay for his horse, and Sinterklaas would bring something to place into the shoe. The tradition is a chocolate letter, the child’s initial, but it can be any kind of candy or a small toy. (For those at my workplace and Sunday school class that refused to eat wrapped chocolates out of my wooden shoes, just because I had worn them: Hey, your loss.) As to whether the present is received in the evening of 5 December or the next morning, depends upon the traditions of that part of Holland. Northern Holland is that evening, and Southern Holland is the next morning. It must be difficult for Sinterklaas keeping it straight, but at least he has Zwarte Piet to help him.
Zwarte Piet has a sack and the bad little children are placed in the sack and sent on a big boat to Spain (tradition dating back to when Spain conquered the Dutch). When my wife was young, her older brother tried to hop into the sack just to see if he really could go on a voyage to Spain. It must run in the family. When our youngest grandson (3 years old) heard about the Dutch tradition, he said, “I want to go on the big boat to Spain!” Watch out, Zwarte Piet!
The tradition is that Sinterklaas rides into the village or town wearing bishop’s robes and riding a white horse. The Advent season was set in the ecumenical calendar as a time of expectation for the return of Jesus. From Revelation 19:11, He will arrive on a white horse. Thus, the classical Sinterklaas tradition has all of the children in Holland on the lookout on 5 December. They are anticipating a man on a white horse. Of course, they are looking for someone who gives gifts rather than a leader of a great Army with eyes like blazing fire. The bishop’s robe is traditionally red, but not dripping in blood. Yet, combining the tradition with Revelation 19, it plants the seed.
Sinterklaas is a great tradition. It is one that has parallels with what the reason for the season should be.
Our older son actually got to go to a Dutch Sinterklaas day when we moved to Germany. And my wife has sung the traditional songs each year, whether there were little children to sing along or not. Her favorite was Sinterklaas Kapoentje.
Leg wat in mijn schoentje,
Leg wat in mijn laarsje,
Dank je Sinterklaasje!
(Dutch Lyrics, 1st verse)
Saint Nicholas, Little Rascal,
Put something into my little shoe,
Put something into my little boot,
Thank you, little Saint Nicholas!
(English Lyrics, 1st verse)
Happy Sinterklaas Day