The feast of Sinterklaas is celebrated on the evening of 5 December with Saint Nicholas’s Eve and on the morning of 6 December, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Northern France. Sinterklaas is a famous figure based on Saint Nicholas, a Christian patron saint of children, and the feast of Sinterklaas is the celebration to commemorate Saint Nicholas’ name day on 6 December.
The feast of Sinterklaas is started weeks before 6 December, usually on the first Saturday after 11 November. It began with intocht van Sinterklaas or arrival of Sinterklaas, when Sinterklaas arrives by a steamboat at a designated seaside town. After the steamboat is anchored, Sinterklaas disembarks and parades through the street on Sinterklaas’ white horse. Children welcome him by singing Sinterklaas songs, and Piet or Pete, who is Sinterklaas’ helper, throws candies, kruidnoten, or pepernoten to the crowd.
On the days leading to 5 December, before going to bed, children will put their shoes beside the central heating radiator in their houses. The shoes will be filled with a carrot, hay, or a bowl of water, which are meant for Sinterklaas’ horse. If the children are being good in the past year, the next morning they will find treats inside their shoes, such as mandarin oranges, pepernoten, speculaas, banketletter, chocolate in the forms of letters or coins, suikerbeest, or marzipan figures. A small present is also often found inside the shoes. The treats or presents are believed to be left by Sinterklaas who visited the children’s houses during the night. But if the children are naughty in the past year, Piet will catch them, armed with a jute bag and willow cane. Sinterklaas and Piet will also visit schools, hospitals and shopping malls.
On Sinterklaasavond or Sinterklas evening (the evening of 5 December), the main presents for the children will be delivered by Piet. Sometimes it is given inside a burlap sack left outside the house, and other times Piet will hide the present inside the house and leave a note that explains how to find the present.
If you do not celebrate the feast of Sinterklaas, you could still share the spirit by giving treats or presents to children, especially to those who are poor or who are hospitalized. Or you could dress yourself as Piet and embark on a sacred mission to hide the presents for the children. Sounds fun, right!
What about you? Tell us your favorite feast of Sinterklaas activity, or share your most memorable feast of Sinterklaas celebration!