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Support the Food Bank Alkmaar and Act2Aid

Support the Food Bank Alkmaar and Act2Aid

The student volunteer organization, Act2Aid, is holding it’s 4th annual food drive to benefit Voedselbank (Food bank) Alkmaar. Please consider donating food and bringing it to school Monday, December 9 – Tuesday, December 17. Voedselbank (Food bank) Alkmaar supports local families in need.

Donation Collection
Locations & Dates

Secondary students can leave donated items at the Act2Aid table in the main entrance to the school between December 9 – 17. Volunteers will also be collecting donations in the primary playground during drop off and pick up on these days.

Items Needed

All types of food are appreciated, but the following is the most suitable for the Food Bank:

  • Vegetables in pots or tins
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Pasta sauces, curry sauces, ragout sauce
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sugar
  • Jam, preserves
  • Peanut butter
  • Soup in tins or jars
  • Crackers
  • Tea and coffee, diluting juice
  • Tinned fish or sausages

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, chocolate letters, peppernoten and other treats are also welcome. Please make sure there is a reasonable sell-by date on the goods.

Donate Your Time
Volunteers are needed to Collect Donations for Primary.

Primary students can leave their donations in two places. Firstly, they can leave them under the tree outside Nadia Roofthoft’s office. Alternatively, we will collect donations outside the primary gate during drop off and pick up. This is especially helpful for small children whose parents aren’t able to come into the school in the morning (P1-5).

However, we do need volunteers to collect these donations and bring them inside to one of the two aforementioned designated drop off points. Please consider volunteering your time to help collect donations during one of these times.

Nicole GottholdSupport the Food Bank Alkmaar and Act2Aid
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Celebrations in Holland: Winter Holidays

Celebrations in Holland: Winter Holidays

This post is a continuation of a special series of posts entitled Celebrations in Holland.  You can read the first post about Sint Maarten hereThrough discussions with 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.

The Winter Holidays 

The winter holidays are a wonderful time for many cultures throughout the world.  ESB is filled with students from just about everywhere, so we are a community rich with many celebrations and customs.

Initially we were surprised by the calendar/timeline of events and how it differed from what we were accustomed to. In Noord Holland the winter holiday season begins in late November after Sint Maarten celebrations conclude. The date may change slightly each year, but it is marked by the arrival of Sinterklaas to the Netherlands from Spain.  From then until December 5 is a magical time for children focused around Sinterklaas. Adults and extended families may also exchange gifts on the evening of December 5.

Christmas- which is described as a separate holiday- is celebrated on December 25 where families gather and share a meal, but gift giving is not the focus like it is for many other cultures on Christmas Eve or Day. New Year’s Eve ends the season marked with parties, local (personal/individual) fireworks and special foods.


Who/What is Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas is a main focus of this holiday. He, his white horse and helpers can be seen seemingly everywhere during this time. He and his “Zwarte Pieten” bring gifts to the children on December 5. Children can also leave carrots in their shoes by the door any evening after his arrival until December 5. When this is done, good children will be left a small trinket toy and/or Kruidnoten  in their shoes the next morning. During this time children can also watch how Sinterklaas is preparing for the big day on the television show, Sinterklaas Journal. You can also see daily videos and participate in activities on their website. 

I remember one year Sinterklaas Journal showed children how Sinterklaas encountered a big storm on his way from Spain. The programme showed presents spilled into the sea, and the big concern was whether Sint and his helpers would be able to find them all and deliver them in time. Each night there was an update on the whole ordeal, and at ESB, we even saw 1 or 2 packages floating in the canal by the school. My daughter noticed the package and the kids were filled with excitement when it was fished from the canal and delivered to Sinterklaashuis in Schoorl to be sure the child received their gift.

Parents and children alike cherish this time every year, and it is clearly an important part of growing up in the Netherlands. You can learn more about this celebration on the website Expatica in its post entitled “Parents Guide to Sinterklaas”.  The post explains the history and origin of the celebration’s figures, and elaborates on the discussion surrounding  how Zwarte Pieten are depicted.

Local Sinterklaas Festivals and Activities for Families

No matter where you live, there’s bound to be an event or activity for you and your family to take in the tradition of Sinterklaas. We searched high and low and collected a list of places and events in our area. Even if you are not able to visit one of these great places/events, primary children will have a visit from Sinterklaas himself right at school on Thursday, December 5 right after school begins. Parents are invited to stick around to welcome Sint on the primary playground after the bell rings (until about 9:15).


Sinterklaas’s Arrival
Sunday, 17 November
Bergen Plein/Ruinkerk
13:00 – 15:00

Klimduin, Duinvoetweg

Visit Sint and Pieten
Origin road 3
1871 HA Schoorl
Open 14 Nov – 4 Dec
11 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Admission is € 3.50.

Dinner with Sinterklaas and Pieten
Several Dates Available
Reserve your space


Sinterklaas’s Arrival
Saturday, 16 November
Wagplein, Alkmar
13:00 – 18:00

Schedule and Locations
13.00 Wagplein: Enjoy singing and dancing until the ship from Spain (via the Luttik Oudorp) arrives at 1.30 pm.
15:00 De Mare Shopping Center
16:45 – 18:00 MCA
More Information


Sinterklaas’s Arrival
Sunday, 17 November
Amsterdam Center
10:00 – 15:30

Schedule and Locations
Boat parade across the Amstel to the Maritime Museum
Parade through the city

Various activities take place between November 18 and December 5 in Amsterdam. Sint and Pieten visit sick children in hospitals, the Amsterdam Tower, Cordaan, refugees, the elderly and there is a school project. See the full schedule.


Sinterklaas’s Arrival
Saturday, 23 November
Raadhuisweg 8-10, 1851 JA Heiloo
11:00 – 12:45
More information and full route

Sint Judges the Coloring Competition
Stationscentrum, Heiloo
More Information and Download Coloring Sheets


Sinterklaas Party
Cultural Center De Strandwal
Het Kerkepad, 1851 Heiloo
More Information


Sinterklaas’s Arrival
Sunday, 17 November
De Gouden Engel, Kanaaldijk 235

More Information


Sinterklaas’s Arrival
Saturday, 23 November
Stadsplein, Heerhugowaard
10:00 – 16:00
More information and full route

New Year’s Eve (Oudejaarsavond)

As describes it in its blog entitled New Year’s Eve in Holland,

New Year’s Eve is a big party in Holland every year. Most people spend the evening with friends or family, watch the famous ‘New Year’s Eve conferences’ and drink plenty of champagne while eating greasy oliebollen (a traditional Dutch pastry: deep-fried dough balls with raisins) and apple beignets. Until the fireworks explode at midnight…

This summed up my experience celebrating New Year’s eve the past 3 years here. The fun, delicious treats and fireworks are what stick out in my memory. You can literally experience fireworks all around you on every street in the villages of Bergen and Alkmaar, and of course Amsterdam. I’ve never experienced so many fireworks going off above houses, stores, and in the middle of the street. It can be exhilarating and a bit scary if you have a young child. But you can also easily find ear protection and eye wear at local hardware stores for your youngster if you plan to celebrate amongst your neighbors. In fact, I highly recommend it. And don’t forget to take care of your pets if you live near the village center. If they are afraid of thunder and lightening, they will likely be firghtened on this evening. Expatica has written a great blog on how to prepare your pets for this evening.

So how big and how many are there? Well it does depend on where you live. For example, we only heard a few here and there in Schoorl, but in the village of Bergen it was non stop from 11:30 – 12:30 pretty much over the entire center. They are not the size or noise level of something you would see a municipality- provided show, but they are much bigger than anything I’ve experienced set off in someone’s back yard. Be warned and have fun!

Traveling over the holidays? That’s ok! The whole winter is a wonderful time in the Netherlands, and we could write many pages on all of the wonderful things to do and see. Here’s a great piece on winter things to do all winter long.

And please be safe and healthy, and have a joyous holiday season!

Your ESB Parents Association

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Nicole GottholdCelebrations in Holland: Winter Holidays
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Let’s Go Bananas Again!

Let’s Go Bananas Again!

As you may have heard, the ES Bergen has again successfully secured participation in the EU School Fruit Programme for primary and nursery for the third year. Each week a selection of fruit and/or vegetables will be supplied and offered to your children in their classroom.

In order for the school to realize this project, the school and the Parents’ Association will again need volunteers to help with the fruit preparation and distribution three times per week on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 09:00-10:30 am.

Distribution will begin on Wednesday, 13 November 2019 in all Nursery and Primary classes and will run for 20 weeks.

We cannot offer this program if volunteers do not come forward, so please…parents, guardians, grandparents, big brothers and sisters are all invited to help.

Whether you can help one or two days throughout the programme, or every week please help support this initiative. This year we have implemented an online sign up form leveraging You can volunteer for a single day, or recurring days throughout the year on this website. If you have any difficulty, you can also email us to let us know when you would like to volunteer and we can enter your details for you.

If you have any questions about the programme, please contact your teacher. If you have questions about volunteering, please contact us.

Your ESB PA Fruit Programme Coordinators,

Sue Garrone, Vanessa Nascimento & Batool Nagdee

We’re using to organize volunteers for this initiative.

Here’s how it works in 3 easy steps:

1) Click the button below to see our sign up page.
2) Review the options listed and choose the spot(s) you like.
3) Sign up! It’s Easy – you will NOT need to register an account or keep a password on

Note: does not share your email address with anyone. If you prefer not to use your email address, please contact me and I can sign you up manually. will require you to enter each date separately. If you plan to sign up for a recurring time, please contact us directly and we will register for you.

Nicole GottholdLet’s Go Bananas Again!
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Celebrations in Holland: Sint Maarten

Celebrations in Holland: Sint Maarten

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.

Sint Maarten

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.

Lanterns and Lighted Sticks (Lampions & Lampionstokjes)
Most primary classes will make lanterns in school, so ask your teacher if this is something they already have planned. If not, there are many examples of lanterns you can make here.  You will also need to purchase a “lampionstokje met lampje”. This is a plastic stick with a light at the end of a string that hangs down to illuminate your lantern. It looks much like a fishing rod in my opinion. You hang the lanterns at the end. They are offered at many of the local popular shops like HEMA, Kruidvat, Xenos, and Action. You can even buy them online here at Much of the fun is seeing the children and their creative, beautiful lanterns line the streets with children.

Sint Maarten Songs
The songs are in Dutch, but no stress! Many of the teachers will incorporate learning the songs in class to help prepare your child for the celebration. Some even learn them in French, English and Dutch. However you can also practice at home before the big night! Here is a link to a site that includes lyrics and youtube videos for many of the popular songs.

History of Sint Maarten

Saint Martin of Tours started out as a Roman soldier then was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The best known legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying from the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is now baptised; he has clothed me.” St. Martin was known as friend of the children and patron of the poor. This holiday originated in France, then spread to the Low Countries, the British Isles, Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. It celebrates the end of the agrarian year and the end of the harvest. Bishop Perpetuus of Tours, who died in 490, ordered fasting three days a week from the day after Saint Martin’s Day (11 November). In the 6th century, local councils required fasting on all days except Saturdays and Sundays from Saint Martin’s Day to Epiphany (the Feast of the Three Wise Men and the star, c.f. Matthew 2: 1-12) on January 6, a period of 56 days, but of 40 days fasting, like the fast of Lent. It was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin’s Lent).This period of fasting was later shortened and called “Advent” by the Church. [Source: Wikipedia]
Nicole GottholdCelebrations in Holland: Sint Maarten
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PA Committee Announced & Update Regarding School Future Location

PA Committee Announced & Update Regarding School Future Location

Dear Parents,

We hope you enjoyed your holiday! Thank you for joining us at our Annual General meeting (October 8th). Minutes from this meeting – and the complete presentation-  are available for members to view on our Member Information Page. You will need to log in with your membership to view this page. It was a great evening and we’re proud to present the new PA Committee.

We advocate on behalf of all parents at the many administrative meetings held throughout the year. Recently we pushed to be heard in the matter of renovation or relocation of the school. We were present at the latest Administrative Board meeting (October 2nd) where the Dutch Ministry of Education, Science and Culture’s project manager presented their plans. He stated that the wish of the Ministry is to move the school to either Alkmaar, Castricum or Zaanstad, but that the suggestion needs to be approved by the Board of Governors. If the Board of Governors agrees to move the school, the ministry does not expect to be able to move the school before year 2025.

During this meeting, the stakeholders in this matter decided to continue all future discussions with all the stakeholders present in the School Advisory Council (SAC). The next SAC meeting will be November 7th. Please send your questions or input on this topic to us.

There was also an update recently on the school website. We are committed to ensuring parents are heard and informed during this and all school developments.

We are here for you, and are looking forward to representing you this school year!

Nicole GottholdPA Committee Announced & Update Regarding School Future Location
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