Being an expat means that you are immersed in wealth of new cultural experiences. As a new expat arriving in Noord Holland in the Autumn of 2016, my husband and I were surprised by our children more than once with new expectations that we were not prepared for.
Through discussions with the many new families who have recently arrived, we learned that it would be helpful to occasionally write posts on our site explaining Dutch customs and celebrations to help new parents get acclimated to Noord Holland. This post is the first of several you can expect this school year.
Each November 11, children in North Holland celebrate Sint Maarten. In village centers like Bergen, Schoorl, Alkmaar and Koedijk, after dark the streets are buzzing with children walking door to door singing songs coaxing folks out of their homes to reward their singing with candy. In Schoorl you can actually walk from business to business, as they close their doors early to participate in this wonderful community celebration. If you live in a village center, you will likely have children stopping at your door hoping for a treat. So- if you’re not keen- or not home- turn off your porch lights to avoid disappointing children who will come singing at your door. But no stress- there isn’t a custom of “tricks” if no treats are given. If you are keen, you can pick up mini candy bags at your local grocery store or provide an alternative like a small toy or other treat.
What the Children Can Expect
Children dress in normal, everyday clothes (no costumes like Halloween), and they sing one of the many Sint Maarten songs as they go door to door. Once the residents of each home hear the children, they come out to listen to the remainder of the song. Pleasantries and greetings are exchanged, and then they give the children a treat. Some of the food purveyors will offer free snacks as well. When finding a good place to walk around, it’s best to stay close to village centers. For example you’ll find folks close to the Bergen Plein and the shops in Schoorl center.