Saint Nicholas — a fun Dutch tradition

Today is an important day in the Netherlands. And for the children it is almost THE most important day, up next to their birthday. Today Saint Nicholas enters into the Netherlands to start the season of “Sinterklaas”.

Due to the traditional story he travels from Madrid, Spain, where he is said to live in a white palace, by steam boat to the Netherlands.

He is accompanied by his “Black Pete’s”, a whole bunch of helpers who are fun and a bit mischievous.

Never mind the impossibly of the whole story, the children love it. Especially the fact that the steam boat is packed with gifts.

Traditionally we celebrate Saint Nicholas’ birthday on December 5 with small gifts, funny poems and lots of chocolate letters and special cookies called “pepernoten”.

But the weeks before December 5  children are allowed to put their shoe at the front door, sing a special “Sinterklaas-song”  and expect to find a small gift (mostly some chocolate or something like that) in that shoe the next morning.

In all schools class rooms are decorated and on December 5 “Sinterklaas”  visits all schools to talk with the children. Of course that is physically impossible for such an old man so he has employed a lot of “Help-Saints”. My school, of course, has the real one! LOL

At home Sinterklaas is celebrated with family. The story goes that Sinterklaas travels on horse back over the roofs to put the gifts in the chimneys with help of his faithful Black Pete. And he listens to the songs the families sing …

It means we will have to do a lot of singing these coming weeks!  Here’s a traditional “Sinterklaas-song” …

And a more modern one …

Saint Nicholas did exist of course, in the fourth century and was known as the Bishop of Myra, in Turkey. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. He is the patron saint of sailors – hence the steamboat – and children (and many others). He became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas).

Categories: Children, Netherlands, Traditions | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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