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Netherlands: Sinterklaas entry

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Sinterklaas entry | Netherlands | Europe

[Visited: November 2006]

In The Netherlands, the big celebration for kids is not Santa Claus or Christmas, but a few weeks earlier. The celebration is on Saint Nicholas Eve, on December 5. Saint Nicholas lived in Turkey in the 4th century, and used his wealth to support the needy. He was bishop of Myra, and according to legend, helped children in various ways. Still now, for the Dutch Sinterklaas is not only the old man dressed up in red and white who gives presents to all children, but in general a generous person who gives away anything. Apparently, Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas is the basis of the Santa Claus tradition in other countries, being a mispronounciation of Sinterklaas.

Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Sinterklaas on his steamboat, entering Amsterdam in November

The entry of Sinterklaas is a big thing in the Netherlands: it is live on TV, and it marks a period of several weeks during which he goes around the country on his white horse (schimmel) with his black assistants (Zwarte Pieten) to make kids happy. In the evening, children would sing one of many traditional songs, put carrots, sugar, and other small food items in their shoe before going to sleep. The next morning, they may find a gift in their shoe. Often, this is candy, a chocolate letter (normally, the first letter of their name), marsepein, or something else. At school, Sinterklaas may come by with his big book in which he has something written about all kids, and talk to them briefly before giving them a present.

Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Sinterklaas on white horse in Amsterdam with the city emblem

On December 5 is the big event: upon a knock on the front door, kids will find a big basket outside, full of presents. Often, presents are wrapped in a special way, or completely hidden in a "surprise", and always accompanied by a poem. Usually, the poem has a message, it can be teasing, admiring, or stimulating the receiver. The poem should be read aloud. In November, Sinterklaas officially arrives in the Netherlands, allegedly from Spain and not from Turkey, although no one knows why. He arrives on a steamboat, with a lot of Zwarte Pieten or Black Petes, and in the city centre, he mounts his white horse to parade through the city. The main event is in Amsterdam, although Sinterklaas has similar entries in all cities and towns in the country. Parents with kids flock the streets, cheer the old man, while the kids hold up their plastic bags hoping to get sweets and candy.

Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Sinterklaas waving to the audience from his steamboat
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Kids trying to get a glimpse of Sinterklaas on his steamboat
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Kids and parents lining the streets, getting ready for Sinterklaas and his candy
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Kids in anticipation of the arrival of Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Looking out for Sinterklaas: kids and their parents
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Zwarte Pieten on the steamboat of Sinterklaas
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Zwarte Pieten in the streets of Amsterdam, giving the kids a good time
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Instrument in a band in the Sinterklaas parade
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Zwarte Piet talking to a kid during the Sinterklaas parade
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Colourfully dressed Zwarte Pieten in the Sinterklaas parade
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Zwarte Piet laughing and giving candy away to kids
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Sinterklaas as a multicultural event
Picture of Sinterklaas entry (Netherlands): Trying to get a better view from a scooter

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