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Submitter: Sjouke Zwier
Description: Last Saturday afternoon, November 24th, Sinterklaas paid his traditional visit to the Dwingeloo observatory, where the children of ASTRON and JIVE employees were gathered in trembling anticipation. Because of the impassably muddy road across the Dwingelerveld, Sinterklaas made an executive decision to travel, instead of by horse, by means of the kind of vehicle that the Dutch armed forces can only dream of nowadays. Thanks to this, the Sint and his Piets managed to arrive at ASTRON just in time to do their thing.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg, Saint Nicolas (De Goede Sint) is assisted by helpers that are commonly and collectively (but politically incorrectly) known as Zwarte Piet ("Black Peter"). Every year, they all mysteriously arrive by steamboat from Spain on the first Saturday after Sint Maarten (another RK Saint that is devoutly worshipped by Duth retailers). Sinterklaas and his team of Black Piets are staying until December 6th, handling complaints from disgruntled recipients, and the occasional lawsuit.

The hearts of many children have been beating faster during recent weeks. From mid November, they are allowed to make a list of gifts that they covet. If necessary, this may be accompanied by an explanation of certain incidents during the year that might, when viewed in an ungenerous light, cast doubt on their intrinsic Goodness. On the night of Dec 5th, they then place their shoes next to the fireplace (or another source of heat like a radiator), in the delicious expectation that Sinterklaas or his Piet will enter the house during the night by means of the chimney, and deliver presents and candy into their shoes. In return, the children are asked to switch off the burglar alarm, and to put a big carrot in their shoe for Amerigo, the amazing horse. A nice drawing for Sinterklaas and Piet is also highly appreciated.

As the pictures show, this ancient and peculiarly Dutch tradition is always an exciting, and above all very "gezellig" event for young and old, local and foreign, the entire ASTRON/JIVE family.
Copyright: ASTRON
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