During the American War of Independence, the inhabitants of New York City, formerly New Amsterdam), celebrated the tradition of Sinterklaas as symbol of the city’s non-English past.  In the 1770s the New York Gazetteer noted that the feast day of “St. a Claus” was celebrated “by the descendants of the ancient Dutch families, with their usual festivities.”

Sinterklaas is assisted by Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”), a helper dressed in Moorish attire with a ruff and a feathered cap. He is typically depicted carrying a bag which contains candy for the children.  He would also carry a chimney sweep’s broom made of willow branches, used to spank children who had been naughty. Some of the older Sinterklaas songs make mention of naughty children being put in Zwarte Piet’s bag and being taken back to Spain.

So put your Klomp (wooden shoes) by the door and perhaps you will get some candy or a few coins. Perhaps you will be put in a sack and hauled off to Spain. Unlike the modern Santa Claus, I have no idea if you’ve been naughty of nice…

Sinterklaas, kapoentje,
Gooi wat in mijn schoentje,
Gooi wat in mijn laarsje,
Dank U Sinterklaasje


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Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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