Sinterklaas can stay out past curfew, ministers confirm


Two federal ministers have penned a letter to Sinterklaas, reminding him of coronavirus measures but allowing him to stay out late

Safe harbour

Not only did Sinterklaas arrive in Flanders at the weekend, he announced that there were no naughty children this year. While kids and their parents could not gather to witness the gift-giving saint’s arrival by boat in Antwerp as usual, he disembarked with his Piet helpers all the same.

Sinterklaas falls on 6 December every year, with kids putting out their shoes for him to fill with gifts, mandarin oranges and sweets, and leaving out carrots for his horse to eat. The Sint is assisted by his helper Zwarte Piet.

The man and dozens of Piets arrive every year in Antwerp about this time and parade through streets, waving to the crowds and handing out sweets. Sinterklaas then takes to Antwerp’s historic town hall to address the children of Belgium – at which point they find out if any of them have been too naughty to receive presents this year.

It has been a very strange year … It will all turn out OK, but we need to have a little bit more patience

- Sinterklaas

The arrival at the weekend was instead broadcast by VRT. The Sint confirmed – as expected –that there were no naughty children, but only after talking about the current health crisis, which will force families to celebrate differently this year.

In the presence of just one Zwarte Piet, the Sint said: “My dear children, it has been a very strange year, and it will be a while longer until you can all play together, go to school and visit grandma and grandpa in the way you used to. It will all turn out OK, but we need to have a little bit more patience.”

He assured us, however, that he will come all the same “across the rooftops to bring a gift or some sweets. It would be lovely to see a drawing or a note from you next to your shoes”.

Sinterklaas delivers his address in Antwerp

And Sinterklaas need not worry about the curfew currently in force in Belgium, confirmed federal ministers Annelies Verlinden (interior) and Frank Vandenbroucke (health). In a lengthy letter penned to the Sint, the pair said that, while he should practice social distancing, his beard would suffice as a facemask and he can stay out past the 23.00 curfew.

“You don’t want to disappoint the children,” the pair wrote. “And neither do we. Therefore the legal basis for a decree is immediately justified, and you – and only you and Zwarte Piet – are exempt from the curfew.”

In other Sinterklaas news, kids are invited to write the man a letter detailing what gifts they would like to find when they wake up on 6 December. Or to send a drawing. Or just to say hi.

Children can drop their letters into any mailbox, addressed to: Sinterklaas, Spanjestraat 1, 0612 Hemel. A postage stamp is unnecessary.

Children can write to the Sint in any language they want, but he will respond in Dutch. And respond he will – with a little gift to boot. Children are then well advised to make sure their own address is also on the envelope. Should a response in French be preferred, the letter should be sent to: Rue du Paradis 1, 0612 Ciel.

Letters can be popped into normal mailboxes or into special Sinterklaas mailboxes – decked out with a mitre and beard – stationed across the country. They should be posted no later than 27 November in order to receive a reply by 6 December.

Photos, from top: The Sint arrives in Antwerp ©Joris Bulckens/VRT; Children can use special post-boxes to deposit their letters to the Sint ©Bpost