Sinterklass is here….in Wassenaar

We interrupt the Thanksgiving transmission to bring you breaking news – Sint is in TOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IMG_9175#1 on the list of top dutch traditions is Sinterklaas…..and the present-giving on December 5. If you’re ‘good’, Saint Nicholas has your name in his book and brings you loads of (little) presents.

IMG_5940And make no mistake, this is not Santa Claus who comes riding on a red-nosed reindeer….this is Sinterklaas…. on his horse! Forget that they share the same name – Saint Nicholas.

IMG_9315Sinterklaas is a holy man with Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters) for helpers (as opposed to being a fat and jolly santa with elves). The Pieten are black because they come down the chimney to drop off the presents Sinterklaas brings the kids!

IMG_9249First of all, Sinter lives in Spain…sunny and bright and Santa, well, he comes from the North pole right? And they arrive on different days. Sint arrives officially in November at the various harbours in the Netherlands by boat (and car and train). This saturday, it was our turn to see him in our little dorp (village).

IMG_9283A few weeks ago, some friends of ours invited us to celebrate Sinterklaas with them…and that’s an event….that begins weeks before the official present-giving day on the 5th of December. Last night we met up – 2 families to start the celebration. First we did our lootjes trekken, which is lottery picking essentially. What happens is that each person writes out their names, their hobbies and what they would like as a gift (which costs about 10 euros or less) on a piece of paper. All the pieces go in a hat and each person picks one. Now you’re not supposed to let anyone know who you’ve got….super secret, just like Secret Santa.But that’s not all. You are tasked to write a poem, usually a funny one, teasing the recipient about some characteristic or habit and you also have to creatively disguise whatever gift you get them for the 5th of December. This is called suprise, pronounced the French way.

IMG_9185The kids put their shoes out before bed with some carrots for sinterklass and his horse, sang songs and this morning when they woke up…they had sweet, orange mandarins in their shoes! And boy, were they excited. Anyhow, he arrived in our village this afternoon and we went to meet him. First the Pieten were out in full force, singing and playing instruments for Sinterklaas loves music. And the weather was so so beautiful  – just like a summer’s day!

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The habour was full….parents, kids, the mayor and more…and loads more people, watching from their balconies with a Lady Pieten for an MC.

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The Burgemeester (The Mayor) was there also….along with an entourage of photographers….next time, maybe I’ll request a special ‘box’…..

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There were kids dressed up in all manner of outfits – from Sinterklaasjes to Pieten….

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Finally Sint arrived on his boat. To loads of singing and screaming.


Then he did the rounds, shaking hands with all the kids lined round the habour…helped by his Pieten and his staff!

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While he was at one end, the Pieten went round with their sackfuls of sweets, filling outstretched hands with loads of sweets and cookies.

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Typical Sinterklaas candy traditionally includes: mandarin oranges, pepernoten, letter-shaped pastry filled with almond paste or chocolate letter (the first letter of the child’s name made out of chocolate), speculaas (sometimes filled with almond paste), chocolate coins and marzipan figures.

IMG_9237IMG_9363Newer candy includes kruidnoten (a type of shortcrust biscuit or gingerbread-biscuits) and a figurine of Sinterklaas made out of chocolate and wrapped in painted aluminum foil.

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It was a very colourful ceremony.

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I even put aside my self-photo taking reservations to pose with some Pieten. Spells lots of promise for future outings.

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And when the sweets were strewn sufficiently across the street, and Sinterklass had shaken the hand of almost every girl and boy…..we rode away…in a   horse and carriage on a procession through town….and we went home! A lovely day. Now I’m looking forward to making my suprise and celebrating on the 5th of December with loads of traditional yummy food! Watch this space…IMG_9334[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Sinterklass is here….in Wassenaar – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]


  1. Very fun festival you were in. When you are having fun, the day passes alot faster and you wish that It didn’t end so fast.
    Nice pictures

  2. Beth – we enjoyed it thoroughly…my kids can hardly wait till the 5th of December!
    Celia…welcome to the Dutch world with new customs and cultures!

  3. I love this! It’s like you get to celebrate Christmas twice! Thanks for sharing, I’d never heard about celebrations on the 5th Dec before…

  4. I love these pictures so much! And how fantastic is it that they are able to hand out real treats (as opposed to packaged candy) to the kids! It looks like your family really enjoyed this tradition.

  5. It was so much fun, especially as this was our first time of celebrating it proper. I’m so excited and looking forward to pakjesavond (‘present evening’, 5th December!)

  6. Sinterklass looks so resplendent with his beautiful white beard and red suit! what an interesting post with all the beautiful colourful pictures. TQ for sharing :))))I learnt some thing today!

  7. Wouw! What a great explanation and impression of this happening… You are a wonderwoman, to make these great shots, write so funny yet cristal clear… and be a sweet and dear friend! You will get really spoiled by Sinterklaas this year… kus en knufffffff

  8. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog! I’m so glad you brought me to your beautiful blog! I loved learning about this beautiful tradition, which is new to me! Your photos are fabulous, and so vibrant!

  9. Lovely story. We have a friend of Norwegian ancestry who always came by on December 5th and filled my children’s shoes with treat from Sinterklass. They love the tradition.

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