In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’ Eve, the 5th of December, is THE holiday tradition and time of gift-giving. It celebrates Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children and sailors. Sinterklaas is the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas.

He looks similar to Santa Claus, but ‘Sinterklaas’ (Saint Nicholas) is a very Dutch character loved by children and adults alike. He wears a long red cape, white bishop’s dress, and hat holds a long gold staff, and carries a big book that tells whether each child has been nice or naughty this year. He is said to be very rich, lives in a castle in Spain, and likes to give presents on his birthday rather than receive them.

He arrives in the Netherlands in mid-November each year marking the official start of the holiday season. The day after he arrives, he traditionally takes part in a parade through Amsterdam. The arrival festivities include a boat parade and horse parade through the city. Children line the route to wave at Sint and his friends, who throw candy and small, round, gingerbread-like cookies, called pepernoten or kruidnoten, into the crowd from their big sacks (YUM!).

The Sinterklaas fun continues daily until the main celebration on 5 December.

Children leave their shoes (or traditional clogs) by the fireplace or door filled with hay or carrots for Sinterklaas’ white horse, Amerigo, hoping that small gifts will be left in return.

Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

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