Celebrating Sinterklaas in Holland - Dutch traditions - Holland.com
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Events

Sinterklaas

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: The Sinterklaas parade will be canceled in many cities this year. The national arrival of Sinterklaas will be held but its location will be kept a secret as spectators are not allowed due to COVID-19 measures. Watch the national arrival of Sinterklaas on the internet or television at the NPO Zapp/NPO 3 channel from 12:00 pm on Saturday 14 November.

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.

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