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Do you hear tripping horse feet on the roof? It could just be St. Nicholas filling little shoes all over the country. Putting your shoe during Sinterklaas is an age-old tradition that little children – and adults – look forward to every year. But where does this tradition come from? And what is involved? We delve into the history and give tips on how to make putting your shoe on St. Nicholas even more fun.

When to put your shoe on?

Can you remember the excitement when the saint arrived in the country? This is usually also the day when the shoe is put on the pedal for the first time. Sinterklaas always arrives on a Saturday somewhere in mid-November. Of course you can also wait until the saint visits your hometown. Where does the tradition of putting your shoe on the pedal come from? You can read about that below.

History of putting your shoe on St. Nicholas

As soon as Saint Nicholas sets foot on land, all children’s hearts start beating faster. The same evening, all over the country, children place their shoes in front of the fireplace; filled with something nice for the horse and – if they are lucky – a nice drawing of a shoe for Saint Nicholas. And then you just have to hope that St. Nicholas doesn’t quietly ride past your house. Young and old alike look forward to this cozy tradition every year. But where does it come from?

Archive footage shows that we were already putting our shoes on in the fifteenth century. Back then, this was done in church on December 5. The rich then threw something in each shoe and the next day the proceeds were divided among the poor. Two centuries later the shoes were not put in the church, but in front of the fireplace at home. From then on, something was also put in the shoe for the horse such as hay, oats and carrots. The shoe is put near the fireplace, so that St. Nicholas and his Pieten can enter through the roof.

Putting your shoe in the house – what is involved?

Putting your shoe in front of the fireplace is a tradition for young and old. In front of the fireplace are often not only small children’s shoes, but also adult sizes. Because secretly we all hope for something nice in our shoe. But you have to do something for it of course. Without a nice drawing and a carrot for the horse, you know for sure that the Saint will skip your shoe.

What is involved in putting on your shoe? We give you some tips:

Shoe drawing

A little something goes a long way. In exchange for a nice shoe gift, Saint Nicholas likes to receive a drawing. So let the kids make a nice drawing in advance and put it rolled up in the shoe.

Wish list

To make sure that St. Nicholas buys the right gifts for Christmas Eve, it is advisable to let your children make a wish list. Put this wish list in the shoe.

Something for the horse

Poor Amerigo has to climb a lot of roofs every night. To give him a helping hand, he likes to nibble on a carrot. So put a carrot in each shoe and put a bowl of water for the horse.

Singing a song

Traditionally, a Saint Nicholas song is also sung in front of the fireplace. Preferably as loud as possible, so that Saint Nicholas can hear.

Now the waiting can begin. If the tradition is carried out well, there is a good chance you will find something in your shoe the next day.

Tips for assistant Santa Claus

As you know, the saint needs a little help from time to time. Filling all the shoes in one night is simply impossible. To be a good assistant Saint Nicholas, we have a few tips for you:

Nibbled carrot – Remove the carrot completely or take a big bite of it so it looks like the horse nibbled it.
Sprinkles – Don’t forget to leave some sprinkles. Preferably in and around the shoes.
Poem – Piets often leave a personal poem for each child. That task now falls to you. In this article we explain how to make a poem.
Water – Spill some water on the ground to make it clear that the horse has drunk from it.
Hide drawing and wish list – don’t forget to take the drawing and wish list out of the shoe(s) and hide them well.

5x frequently asked questions about shoe setting
As young parents, you might have a lot of questions about shoe setting. In the paragraphs above we have already given you some useful tips, but maybe you still have some questions. Therefore we have made a list with frequently asked questions. Chances are that your question is also included:

1. How often can a child put its shoe on the table?
There is no simple answer to this question. However, it does take away some of the fun when children can put their shoes on too often. Our advice: once a week. For example on Saturday, then they can make a drawing during the day and on Sunday they have time to unwrap their present.

2. What can a shoe gift cost?
In December, children are often inundated with gifts. Especially on St. Nicholas Eve, they unwrap a lot of presents. So keep the budget for a shoe gift low, up to 10 euros for example. Children can be very happy with small things.

3. What are popular shoe gifts?
Even with a small budget you can shop for the best shoe gifts. Popular gifts for the shoe are: marzipan, chocolate Santa Clauses, a small box of Lego or Duplo, skipping rope, chalk, craft supplies, clay and games.

4. We don’t have a fireplace, where do you put your shoe?
Good question! Traditionally, you put your shoe by the fireplace, but there are many homes that do not have a fireplace. What then? Be creative! Put the shoe at the front or back door, on the balcony, in the garden or by the heater or make your own fireplace from cardboard.

5. From what age does shoe-tying begin?
That is entirely up to you. Up to 2 years old, children probably do not (fully) understand how the tradition works. Still, it is nice to introduce them to putting their shoes on at an early age. When they are a little older, they will understand how it works. From then on, you can also let them make a shoe drawing and sing a song.

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