Photo: © Maaike Bunschoten-Bolhuis via iStock


Nov. 13, 2021 - Dec. 5, 2021, All of Holland

Sinterklaas, also known as Saint Nicholas, is dear to the hearts of Dutch children. He can be recognized by his eye-catching red cape with red miter and his long white beard. The saintly man arrives each year in mid-November on a steam boat filled with gifts and together with his helpers, all referred to as 'Piet’ (Peter).

  • Experience the arrival of Sinterklaas everywhere in the Netherlands.
  • Enjoy Sinterklaas candy, which is available from supermarkets throughout Holland.
  • Experience the great atmosphere associated with Sinterklaas.

Update: Due to COVID-19, the national arrival of Sinterklaas will occur in a secret location in 2021 as no public will be allowed. You can watch his arrival on 13 November on TV, however, so make sure to tune in to the national NPO 3 channel. Some municipalities will organise their own Sinterklaas event so keep an eye on the town or city's municipal website to see whether there will be a Sinterklaas parade and if people are allowed to be there.

For children, this means they can put their shoe next to the chimney or back door. At night, Sinterklaas rides across the rooftops on his white horse Amerigo and places little treats or gifts in the children's shoes, assisted by his helpers, the Peters. Traditional sweets are gingerbread men, spiced biscuits, marzipan and chocolate letters. Satisfy your sweet tooth and buy these sweets at any supermarket or bakery.

5 December

The holiday itself is celebrated in 5 December, when gifts are exchanged. Children sing songs to Sinterklaas at the top of their lungs until they hear a knock on the door. If they have been good, they will find a bag filled with gifts just outside the door. Since Sinterklaas and Peter are not real, adults throughout the Netherlands dress up as Sinterklaas or Peter, much to the pleasure - and often confusion - of small children.

There has been a lot of discussion about the appearance of the traditional ‘Piet’ in the past few years. These days, there are more and more brightly colored, rainbow, soot and chimney ‘pieten’. Some even wear no stage make-up at all.

Gifts and Poems

Older children and adults also celebrate 5 December. Before the holiday, they draw numbers with a person’s name on them and buy gifts for that person. The gifts are wrapped so as to conceal their actual contents and are often accompanied by funny poems filled with puns written specifically for the recipient. These gifts are the perfect way to mock somebody in front of the whole family.

Sinterklaas's arrival

Sinterklaas arrives in Holland on a boat with his Piet helpers every year. Thousands of children await him excitedly. Starting that evening they may leave a shoe by the hearth before going to bed to find a little gift from 'Sinterklaas' in it next morning! Sinterklaas' main entrance takes place in a different city every year, but nearly all Dutch cities and villages have their own arrival of Sinterklaas. For the exact date of Sinterklaas's arrival, visit a tourist office.

Did you find this interesting? Discover more

Upcoming events

Discover what events you can visit in Holland. The calendar shows the best festivals each month.