This article deals with Sinterklaas as it relates to NationStates. For more general information, see the Wikipedia article on this subject.
For small children in Knootoss, Saint Nicholas' eve is much more important than Christmas. On the evening of December 5 Sinterklaas brings presents to every child that has been good in the past year. Sinterklaas wears a red bishop's dress with a red mitre as he rides a white horse over the rooftops. He has a long white beard, holds a long gold coloured staff with a fancy curled top in his hand and carries a big book with all the children's names in it, and whether they have been good or bad. He is assisted by many mischievous helpers with soot black faces and colorful Moorish dresses called 'zwarte Pieten' (black Petes).
Each year Sinterklaas arrives by steamboat 'from Lavenrunz', and is then paraded through the streets of the town he arrives in (actually in every town of the DDR), welcomed by cheering and singing children. His zwarte Pieten throw candy and small, round gingerbread like cookies (Pepernoten) into the crowd. The children welcome him by singing traditional songs. His arrival is televised on KNN. Sinterklaas also visits schools, hospitals and shopping malls.
Traditionally, in the weeks before the 5th of December, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to chimney of the coal fired stove or fireplace, with a carrot or some hay in it 'for Sinterklaas' horse', and will find some candy in the form of a chocolate, marzipan frog in their shoes the next day, supposedly thrown down the chimney by a Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas himself. Children are told that Black Peter enters the house through the chimney, which also explained his black face and hands, and would leave a bundle of sticks or a small bag with salt in the shoe instead of candy when the child had been bad. In recent years some people have engaged in a recurring debate about racial, sexist or other discriminative aspects of the black Peter character: the Peter character is obviously inspired by black slaves. The usual reply is that his face is black of soot.
Children are also told that in the worst case they would be put in the gunny bag that black Peter carries the presents in, and would be taken back to Hofburg in Lavenrunz, where Sinterklaas spends the rest of the year. This practice however has been condemned by Sinterklaas, in his more recent television appearances, as something of the past.
'Sinterklaasavond' or 'Pakjesavond' is usually celebrated on December 5th, and by some on December 6th, children at home sing Sinterklaas songs and suddenly somebody will knock on the door very loudly, and when they go to the door a gunny sack full of presents is found on the doorstep. Alternatively - some improvisation is often called for - the parents 'hear a sound coming from the attic' and then the bag with presents is 'found' there. Some parents manage to 'convince' Sinterklaas to come to their home personally.
Typical presents include the first letter of the child's name made out of chocolate, a figurine of Sinterklaas made out of chocolate and wrapped in painted aluminum foil, coloured marzipan shaped into fruit, an animal or some other object. These presents are often accompanied by a simple poem, saying something about the child or with a hint to the nature of the present. Also popular are coins and cigarettes made out of chocolate. However, the Staten-Generaal has issued a recommendation to ban chocolate cigarettes since they might promote future real smoking. (supported by SLP and KGP)
The children, up to an age of usually seven or eight years, almost religiously believe in Sinterklaas. They think that he actually lives forever and that he comes from Lavenrunz, that he knows everything about the children and that his zwarte Pieten do come down through chimneys. The period between his arrival and December 5 is therefore very exciting.
When children ask their parents how it is possible that Sinterklaas is at so many places, they tell them that those are assistant Sinterklazen. At family gatherings where a stand in Sinterklaas in a rented suit appears, parents have reported in advance to this Sinterklaas what the children have done good and bad and make it look like he knows everything about the children when the 'Goedheiligman' ('Good Holy Man') looks in his big book.
Most children do suspect that Sinterklaas may not truly exist. The atmosphere during celebrations can be very enchanting though, and many children really want to believe. Also, most children can't think of a reason why their parents would lie to them.
For some children, gradually losing their magic view of the world as they grow older and getting more and more suspicious about what their parents are telling them, it still may be their first big traumatic experience in life when their parents admit that Sinterklaas does not really exist....
Therefore some parents tell their children from the start that all this Sinterklaas is just a fantasy, a game that people play, as they consider it an inappropriately bad example about telling the truth. Others, looking back on their own experience with Sinterklaas as a child, consider that the enjoyment for the children get is greater than a small(?) discomfort.
Knootian media, especially television stations, abide by a kind of informal rule never to deny Sinterklaas's existence, or at least not in programs broadcast before children's bedtime.