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 Sinterklaas’ arrival in Dokkum this year.
- Enjoy Sinterklaas candy, which is available from supermarkets throughout Holland.
- Experience the great atmosphere associated with Sinterklaas.
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.
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.
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 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.