To the editor:
The holiday season is much different in the Netherlands, where I grew up. Christmas is a religious holiday. We receive gifts on St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6. During the year, St. Nicholas lives in an undisclosed location in Spain with his assistants called Black Petes. They traditionally have had a bad reputation for being mean to bad kids, and as a child you were afraid of them. You were told that if you had been bad, Black Pete would put you in his bag and take you to Spain.
Toward the end of November, St. Nicholas and his Black Petes travel toward the Netherlands in their steamboat. Children put their shoes out at night in front of the fireplace and put some carrots, bread or hay in the shoe with a letter to St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas travels all over the Netherlands on a white horse which can leap and walk on the roofs of houses. The Black Petes come down the chimney and leave the gifts in the shoes if the children have behaved during the year. This continues every evening until Dec. 4.
Late at night on Dec. 5, my family would set the dinner table with plates and bowls. We would leave some carrots and hay for the horse and maybe some treats for St. Nicholas. When we would wake up the next morning, we would find all our plates and bowls filled with candy and presents all over the table.