One morning Sophie Snail woke up. She yawned, she stretched and she opened her eyes: ping! Jumping out of bed she opened the curtains. It was another beautiful clear but cold day. She woke up her sisters, Sammie and Susie. Today was the 5th of December and Pakjesavond!
Since Sinterklaas (also known as Sint or Saint Nicolas) had arrived in Holland a few weeks earlier Sophie Snail and her sisters had been putting their shoes by the door, singing songs and had been on their best behaviour.
Last night was no exception! Sophie, Sammie and Susie had sung extra nicely and very loudly.
They raced down the stairs to see if the Zwarte Pieten (Sint’s helpers) had heard them singing and left anything in their shoes.
Yippee! Pepernoten and a chocolate letter each too!
While they munched on a tasty breakfast the Snail family chattered about the exciting day ahead. Tonight the whole family were going to get together to celebrate Pakjesavond.
Sophie Snail remembered when they had met Sinterklaas as he arrived on his steamboat from Spain with his horse Americo and his helpers the Zwarte Pieten. He had told her all about Pakjesavond.
Sinterklaas had kindly explained to Sophie Snail and her sisters that Pakjesavond was on the 5th of December – the day before his birthday on the 6th of December, which is the name day of Saint Nicolas: the patron saint of sailors and children. Sophie had learnt that on the evening of Pakjesavond her family would be having a party to celebrate and Sint would deliver presents to all the good boys and girls – and coal to all the naughty ones!
Sophie Snail could not wait!
After the longest day that the Snail sisters had ever had, they got ready to go to Oma and Opa’s, Sophie Snail’s Nana and Grandpa. They were meeting their Aunties, Uncles and Cousins at Oma and Opa’s house for the celebrations. Sophie Snail wondered if Sint himself would deliver the presents or if the Zwarte Pieten would be leaving the sack at the door for her and her sisters to find.
Wow! Oma’s house was decorated with Sinterklaas themed party flags and balloons, her table was full of delicious food – which included lots of sweet goodies. Sophie liked the warm amandel banketstaaf, it was her favourite – almond paste wrapped in flaky pastry, mmmm. Mommy Snail enjoyed that too and said it went down very well with her cup of tea!
Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door. “What was that?!” exclaimed Opa.
“It was some-one at the door Opa – maybe it is Sint!” Sophie squealed in delight.
Everyone rushed to the door and Opa opened it. There, in his red cloak and mitre holding his gold staff and red book, stood the tall man Sophie Snail had met that day at the harbour.
“Hello everyone!” Sinterklaas smiled “My Zwarte Pieten tell me that Sophie, Sammie and Susie have been very good and have been singing some beautiful songs. I would like to hear them for myself – will you sing for me?”
“Oh, yes Sint, I will!” Sophie Snail led Sint; and the Zwarte Pieten who were with him, into Oma’s front room. Sint sat in a chair and watched as his Pieten danced and sang with Sophie, Sammie and Susie. Even Daddy and Opa Snail joined in the fun!
Sinterklaas then opened his big red book and called each child up in turn. He knew all sorts of things about them! He even knew that Sophie sucked her thumb but was trying very hard not to. He said as she was trying so hard she deserved a gift. The Zwarte Piet then passed Sophie Snail a package. Sophie ripped off the paper to find the remote-controlled car she had always wanted inside – she was soooo excited! Sint then spoke to Sophie Snail’s sisters and cousins who all had a lovely gift each too.
After Sint had answered some questions (Susie Snail wanted to know how many Zwarte Piet there were…there were lots each with different jobs to do that helped Sint to do his work) he had to leave as he was going back to Spain the next day and had lots of presents still to deliver.
Just as Sophie Snail was waving to Sint through the kitchen window there was another loud knock at the door…when they opened it they discovered the Pieten had left the sack behind and it was full with another present for everyone! Sint and his Pieten were nowhere to be seen.
Oma gave everyone some hot soup. It was just what Sophie Snail needed. Then she spotted some interesting looking packages. “What are those Opa?” Sophie asked.
“Ahh, those are the surprises” he answered, saying the word ‘surprises’ with a French accent which Sophie thought sounded quite funny!
There was a package for each of the adults and older children who had not received anything from Sinterklaas. The family sat down and Sophie Snail got given the job of handing out the different packages. There was a silly poem on each package; Sophie Snail read this out which helped the family decide who the gift was for.
Each gift was disguised in a creative way – Aunty had a package in the shape of a rubber duck! She liked to relax in the bath and inside the papier marché duck was her gift – a bottle of bubblebath. Opa liked to garden, attached to a small trowel his poem said he had to go into the garden and dig his gift up from where he found a small Spanish flag!
By the time everyone had opened their gifts Sophie Snail was yawning. It had been a lovely day and she could not wait for next year. Sophie Snail promised herself that she would be as good as she could every day until then just in case Sint had left a Piet behind to keep an eye on her!