Sinterklaas – Dutch Father Christmas (5 December)

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Here in the Nederlands, leading up to the 5th of December the ‘Sinterklaas’  (Dutch Father Christmas) fun is already in full swing.

Learn more about the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition and see how it’s celebrated here in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Tradition Of Sinterklaas & 5th of December

Saint Nicholas (AKA Sinterklaas) normally arrives on the second Saturday in November.

He arrives on a steamboat from Spain along with his ‘Piet’ helpers.

Sinterklaas (Sint Nicholas) Arriving On His Steam Boat

Dutch Father Christmas On His Steam boat
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In recent years it is becoming more and more controversial.

This year some of the major retailers have stopped using the Zwarte Piets (black Petes) in their advertising campaigns.

Along with the tv they are starting to introduce brightly coloured Piets and clown Piets.

I think this is much better.

However, there is however a lot of resistance as the Dutch love their traditions.

This particular tradition has been around since the 19th century.

On a lighter note, the kids absolutely love it and get drawn into the spirit of it.

Singing all the funny little songs at school and watching the old fella arrive on his steamboat from Spain.

The Dutch Father Christmas Parading Through The Town

Image Of Dutch Father Christmas

There is a big procession through the town where the children can see Sinterklaas riding on his white horse.

Pieten – Sinterklaas Helpers

Image of Zwarte Pieten

The children can score handfuls of pepernoten (little round cinnamon biscuits) and sweets from all of the Piets.

Piet Handing Out Pepernoten (little round cinnamon biscuits)

black pete handinng out cinnamon biscuits

My girls have this down to a fine art now and take along little Sinterklaas zaakjes (little burlap bags) to collect their pepernoten in.

You would not believe how many get dropped on the floor and wasted.

This way they get to keep the whole handful that is given to them safe and sound in there little Sinterklaas Sack.

The Dutch Tradition of Leaving A Shoe By The Fire

From that day on, once Sinterklaas is in the land, the kids are allowed to lay out their shoes by the fire.

They do this every Saturday night until the 5th of December.

If the children have been good they will wake up to find little presents in their shoes such as chocolate coins, a chocolate letter (the first letter of their name) and little toys, etc. 

However, if they have been bad they are supposed to receive a bag of salt.

Although I am not so sure this happens so much anymore as I think that my 2 definitely should have received some salt a few times 🙂 )

How Sinterklaas is celebrated throughout The Netherlands

Leading up to the 5th of December there are many chances for the children to see Sinterklaas and all his helpers.

Most of the sports clubs and schools organise visits throughout this period and the kids get to have a lot of fun with all the playful Piets.

There are a lot of different Piets like ‘Piet Precies’ (Pete precise), Zuur Piet (sour Pete), slim piet (clever Pete) and so the list goes on.

Also every year there are various television programmes the children can follow including a daily news broadcast.

Every year they create problems.

These problems turn into major dramas that may threaten to spoil ‘Pakjesavond’ (presents evening).

This can be anything from the boat not being able to sail.

To the big golden book being lost.

The children also follow this at school.

kruidnoten in dish with gifts for the Dutch pakjesavond

5th December – Pakkjesavond (Present Evening)

On the 5th of December, it is ‘Pakjesavond’ where Sinterklaas comes with a big sack of gifts.

I love the reaction of my girls when they hear a big bang on the front door.

Before they can get there, a large sack of gifts and a big handful of pepernoten are rather forcibly thrown through the door.

No matter how fast they run Sinterklaas has always gone (he’s very busy you know).

And of course, Papa comes nonchalantly sauntering through the back door with an armful of firewood looking a little bewildered at all the excitement.

Pepernoten (Kruidnoten) – Dutch Spiced Biscuits

Pepernoten Recipe - Dutch Mini Spiced Cookies Recipe
Recipe For Dutch Kruidnoten Or Pepernoten

Earlier in the post, I mentioned pepernoten (well they are officially kruidnoten but everyone calls them pepernoten) quite a few times

These are little round ginger spiced biscuits and they are absolutely delicious!

My girls can’t get enough of them and around this time of year, we even pack up a few in their school lunches as a treat.

If you would like to make your own pepernoten then you can find the recipe here: Traditional Dutch Pepernoten Recipe

Sinterklaas V’s Father Christmas

For us as a Dutch/English family, it can all get a bit too much but there is no way I am letting go of my Christmas traditions.

The girls still have the same amount of money spent on them. We just split it in two and try to be creative with inexpensive stocking fillers to bulk it up.

I want them to grow up with a love of Christmas so I go the extra mile to make it special.

I try to help them understand the true meaning of Christmas whilst enjoying all the wonderful traditions.

Here in the Nederlands I’m not even allowed to mention the ‘C’ word until the 6th December.

But me being me I can’t help myself.  I have already secretly begun with some behind-the-scenes prep – shhh don’t tell anyone!

Sinterklaas - Dutch Father Christmas
Sinterklaas – The Dutch Father Christmas

Where To Next?

I hope you enjoyed reading about the Dutch Sinterklaas (Father Christmas) traditions.

If you would like to read more about life here in the Netherlands and the Dutch traditions then it’s a good idea to check out all the posts in Everything Dutch.

Or maybe you would like to read about some other Dutch traditions

  • Sint Maartin – The 11th of November is the Dutch alternative to Halloween (children can knock on doors for candy)
  • New Year In The Netherlands – Find out more about how the Dutch typically celebrate in here the Netherlands
  • Koningsdag – KIng’s day is when the people in the Netherlands celebrate their King’s birthday

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