Well, it is tradition in the Netherlands to have a Surprise Evening with friends. This is always right around December 5th - it coincides with Sinterklaas - He's like the Dutch Santa Claus - but like he's a saint and he comes from Spain (traditionally) but perhaps he really came from Turkey. And he comes in a steamboat with "Zwarte Piet" - aka black pete... (There are like hundreds of black petes, not just one but they all have the same name) and a horse named Amerigo. And when it's time for him to come the children put their shoes out and they put a carrot in the shoe for Amerigo - the horse, and then Sinterklaas leaves them a gift, like candy or a mandarine fruit (he's from Spain afterall).
But the older kids and adults know that Sinterklaas is fictitious, so they do something different so they can still have fun and get presents. Here is what they do. Before, the Surprise evening, friends take turns drawing a name and then they prepare a gift for the friend. And you don't tell who you got, it's supposed to be a secret aka a surprise. And the gift is usually wrapped up special - or funny or whatever. So, I wrapped the gift like a carrot in a big wooden shoe. This was really easy to do because candy is often sold in carrot shaped bags. The big carrot in the shoe was spekkies - aka - marshmallows. And I put smaller carrot bags in side that contained different candies. And you also write a poem to go with the gift. Poetry, I'm not gifted at, so I had my Mom-in-law write the poem for me. Here is what she wrote:
"Niets is gezonder dan een peen
maar daar zie jij in geen been
Om je wens te vervullen
laat de Sint je toch maar smullen
Deze peen mag worden geschild
dan vind je wat je hebt gewild"
Okay, I'll try and translate it the best I can... "nothing is healthier than a carrot, but there see you none in the leg, For your wish to fulfill, Let Sint (Sinterklaas) something give - This carrot you can peel and then you find what you wanted."
actually I'm not really sure what "je toch maar smullen" means - but it's something like how i translated it - because that makes sense to me :)
Anyways, I've done this three -maybe four years in a row. We do it with the Young Men and Young Women at church and the bishopric usually does it together with us. The first year, I took a can of pringles and filled it with candy. That was a pretty lame gift. But I didn't really know what to do because believe it or not - Mark actually forgot how to explain it to me... it had been so long since he had done it that he couldn't really say what to do. The next year, I really wanted to do it right, so I papier-mached a big soccer ball and filled that with candy - it was for a guy in the ward - they always want soccer balls and candy and stuff like that. Boys are real easy to shop for it seems. The third year, I made a small steam boat and again stuffed it with candy. And this year, I made the wooden shoe. I think this one turned out the best so far.
I would like to do it again in the future - but perhaps with adults and not the YM/YW - because I keep drawing names of the Young Men and they really trash your present - what I mean, is they rip it apart - and I always feel like - hey man, I put a lot of time into that gift... but this year, I didn't put that much time into it... so it didn't bother me as much. Mark says, you are supposed to tear the gift apart, that's part of the fun! I don't get boys sometimes. They don't appreciate crafts and such like I do. It is fun to come up with ideas though.
Some unique ideas I have seen - like one guy wrapped the gift in like 500 big stretchy rubberbands and this YW was taking quite a while to get to the gift. And this other time, he made like a "dummy" it looked like his little brother - and it was stuffed with candy and pepernoten and all that traditional Sinterklaas treats. Very funny. And people have made like giant cell phones, where you punch the numbers out and the gifts are inside. Some people are really creative like that. For me, it's creative to just make a wooden shoe, or a steam boat... it looks all cute and traditional... and this year, everyone knew I made the shoe... they must know me really well :)
I'm probably going to be released from the Young Women's next week - so next year, if I get to do Surprise - it will have to be with some adults. I heard that some older single adults do it together with the Elders every year... I'd like to get in on that!