En Sinterklaas is er weer!

If you live in the Netherlands, today you will experience how a whole country – children and adults! – are gek (crazy) about Sinterklaas.

Saint Nicholas arriving by boat

Sinterklaas (also known as Sint Nicolaas or Sint Nikolaas, Saint Nicolas in French, Sankt Nikolaus in German) is the traditional Winter holiday figure celebrated in the Low Countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, as well as French Flanders (Lille) and Artois (Arras).

Well, even if he is celebrated on December the 5th or 6th, he  traditionally arrives in the Netherlands each year end November. Usually he comes by steamboat (stoomboot) from Spain together with his assistants, the Zwarte Pieten, and his horse, Amerigo.

He  parades through the streets, welcomed by cheering and singing children. You can follow this event live on national television in the Netherlands and Belgium. The Zwarte Pieten throw candy and small, round, gingerbread-like cookies, either “kruidnoten” or “pepernoten” into the crowd. The children welcome him by singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. You can find the songs online on several sites.

The following days Sinterklaas visits schools, hospitals and shopping malls etc. All towns with a dock celebrate their own intocht van Sinterklaas (arrival of Sinterklaas) and several local arrivals take place later on the same Saturday of the national arrival, the following Sunday (the day after he arrives in the Netherlands or Belgium), or one weekend after the national arrival. In places a boat cannot reach, Sinterklaas arrives by train, horse, or even carriage or fire truck.

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