A sure sign that it's February? Around our house we can usually tell by how large a dent we've made in our chocolate letter stash from Christmas. We only have three left! That's a pretty good dent, considering that we started with 8.
Chocolate letters are a super traditional Dutch Sinterklaas thing. I've accepted eating letters made out of chocolate as a totally normal practice for my whole life, and only in the last couple years did I realize this was not something in which the general population participated.
Apparently Dutch/Germanic people have been giving each other letter-shaped food for centuries. Letters made out of pastry and meat appear in old paintings from the 1700s. Children used to be taught their alphabet with letters made out of bread. Somehow this morphed into Sinterklaas putting chocolate letters into the shoes of good children. Odd.
I wasn't born in the Netherlands. Neither were my parents. Three out of my four grandparents were, though, and that's enough to make our family quite a Dutch one, especially when Sinterklaas season rolls around. Everyone gives everyone chocolate letters. I always eat mine too quickly. I always feel sick and decide never to eat chocolate letters again... which is why it takes until about March to finish them up. Then December 5 rolls around and I do it all over again. It's a vicious cycle... but a tasty vicious cycle.