As most of you know, I was born and raised in the Netherlands, where we celebrated Sinterklaas. Growing up celebrating this fun holiday may explain my fascination with gunny sacks....
Early November Sinterklaas (dressed as a Catholic Saint) arrives in Holland per steamship from Spain accompanied by his many helpers: Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). He parades through the streets on his white horse. The Black Petes look for "bad" children, whom they will put into their bag (burlap!) and take back home with them to Spain.
Throughout the next few weeks children can place their shoes by the fireplace at night (with some treats for the horse in them), sing some fun Sinterklaas songs, and if they've been good, they may expect a treat in their shoe in the morning (hopefully this will be a chocolate letter~ the initial of their fist name). Zwarte Piet climbs down the chimney during the night to make the switch. Of course, the chimney may get him quite dirty, which explains why he's "black as soot."
On December 5 (Sinterklaas Eve) a loud bang on the window announces the arrival of a whole lot of packages from Sinterklaas, which he has left on the doorstep (or by the hearth) in a large burlap bag (aka de zak van Sinterklaas)!
Fun FUN times, and GREAT memories!