comes extra early in The Netherlands when, in mid-November, Sinterklaas
arrives with his assistant, Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete) by boat
from his home in Spain.
The big media
event is covered by Netherlands TV stations nationwide. Sinterklaas
mounts a gleaming white horse to lead a parade of happy children
and their parents through town. Similar parades ensue in towns
throughout the country.
arrival of Sinterklaas marks the official beginning of the Christmas
holidays, the big celebration culminates on December 5th, the
eve of St. Nicholas Day, when children leave out cookies for Sinterklaas
and fill their shoes with hay and carrots for his horse.
In the morning,
treats and presents are in store, especially if the children have
been very good, but twigs are left if they've been bad. Later,
families will usually gather for gift exchanges, for what the
Dutch call "surprises" - gifts given anonymously and
signed only... "Sinterklaas."
may precede or follow the exchange of gifts, but traditionally
may include generous helpings of Dutch
Christmas treats such as Kersttulband (Christmas Ring Cake)
Pepernoten (Peppernut Cookies) and Speculaas Koekjes (Spice Cookies).
With the major
celebration over and done, December 25th is a day usually spent
quietly with family. However, there's more holiday excitement
to come as the Dutch celebrate with champagne and sweet oliebollen
to welcome in the New Year...
More information about Christmas in Holland around the Web:
St. Nicholas - Netherlands - Check out a wonderful overview of modern and traditional celebrations with feature stories on Christmas in Amsterdam, Texel, and other sightings of Sinterklaas throughout Holland.