hocoladeletters (chocolate letters) became a Christmas tradition in the Netherlands around 1900. According to legend, when St. Nicholas* (sometimes called Sinterklaas) visits on December 6th, he leaves these tasty treats along with other goodies in the shoes of good boys and girls. But for naughty children, he leaves a piece of coal!
Each year, sometime in late November, excited Dutch children across the Netherlands and Dutch islands gather with thousands of others to welcome St. Nicholas as he arrives by ship. Then the parade begins with St. Nicholas riding through the streets on a white horse, waving and smiling as his helpers throw candy to the crowds.
Later, on the night of December 5th, children put their shoes out before they go to bed. They hope that when St. Nicholas visits he will fill their shoes with sweets, not coal!
Our family adopted this custom while living on a Dutch island in the Caribbean. Today, we use the chocolate letters as much-anticipated stocking-stuffers for our children and grandchildren. They’re also great gifts for other special days.
*For more about St. Nicholas and the custom of St. Nicholas Day, visit www.stnicholascenter.org. This attractive website contains a wealth of information.