Christmas comes early in Europe. Even Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) doesn’t keep the Dutch waiting, arriving in Amsterdam in mid November. This year, I was lucky enough to be in Holland for work during the blessed bishop’s arrival by steamer from Spain and procession through Amsterdam on his white horse.
Sinterklaas is accompanied by many Zwarte Piets (Black Petes) his mischievous helpers who come with him from Turkey to determine if children have been well-behaved and are indeed worthy of presents. The kids in Amsterdam all seemed to be on their best behavior, lining up for hours along the street waiting to hand Zwarte Piet their Christmas wish lists. The good kids will receive gifts in their shoes on December 5th, St. Nicolas Eve. Apparently adults also exchange presents on that day accompanied by sarcastic poems which humorously point out the receiver’s shortcomings. (Dutch friends, feel free to clarify on that one.)
Here’s the reaction as Sinterklaas entered Dam Square! Sinterklaas is reportedly “the most beloved of all Dutch holidays and traditions,” and I can see why.