Sinterklaas is one of the most important traditional festivities in the Netherlands.

Sinterklaas Arrival
Every year, in mid-November, Sinterklaas (also known as Sint Nicolaas or simply as De Sint) makes the trip from his home in Spain to the Netherlands to celebrate his birthday, on December 6. Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands on board of a steamship accompanied by his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters). There’s an welcoming ceremony and a short speech given by the Mayor, after which Sinterklaas makes his entry into town at the sound of Sinterklaas songs played by brass bands. Sinterklaas then leads a procession through the town riding his horse, Amerigo.

Sinterklaas Accessories
Sinterklaas has a long white beard, wears a long red cape, a white bishop’s dress and a red mitre (bishop’s hat) and he holds a crosier (long gold staff with a a curled top). He carries a big book in which it is written the name of children that have been good and that have been naughty in the past year. The story goes that children that have been really bad would be put in a burlap bag to be taken back to Spain with Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas’ Eve
On “Sinterklaasavond” (Sinterklaas’ Eve) or “Pakjesavond” (Presents’ Eve), celebrated on 5 December, children place one shoe filled with carrots or some hay in front of the fireplace (or heating system, window or door). Sinterklaas rides his horse over the roofs of the houses while Black Peters shin down the chimney (or door or window) to collect the carrots and hay left for the horse of Sinterklaas and, in return, they leave sweets inside the shoes.

Adults also indulge in the festival, exchanging surprise gifts that are accompanied by a humorous poem about each other. These poems may point out some embarrassing moment in the past year or to point out a general failure of character in a mocking way.

Sinterklaas Food
This season we can enjoy a wide variety of traditional sweets. There are, for example, pepernoten, kruidnoten, “marsepein aardappeltjes” (marzipan potatoes), speculaas, letters made of chocolate and chocolate coins. There’s also a special drink, the “Bischopswijn” (Bishop wine), a medley of red wine, lemon, orange, sugar, cinnamon and clove.

Sinterklaas in Wageningen
On Saturday 15th November 2008, Sinterklaas arrived in Wageningen. I was invited by a friend to go to the Student Chaplaincy, where some activities related with the fest of Sinterklaas were organized.

We started by having lunch. Then we were introduced to the story of Sinterklaas and we went to the quay, where a large group of people was already waiting for Sinterklaas.

The bishop arrived on a boat accompanied by the “Zwarte Pieten” (Black Peters). When they came ashore, Sinterklaas was welcomed by the local Mayor and then the “Zwarte Pieten” gave kruidnoten and sugar candies to everybody in the crowd.

Children were very excited, some of them were dressed as “Zwarte Pieten” and they had bags to collect all the sweets they could get from “Pieten”.

Afterwards we went back to the Student Chaplaincy to make our paper shoes. While we were cutting, sticking and painting, we were presented with Sinterklaas sweets (speculaas, marzipan potatoes and kruidnoten).

Later in the afternoon, when we were going home, we passed by Sinterklaas and the Peters. The Black Peters were singing and dancing with children.

On Friday December 5, five days after I had starting my Master Thesis, Sinterklaas went to Biotechnion. A few people sat on his lap to receive the surprises he had brought and to read the poem attached to it (as it was written in Dutch I was not able to understand).

After that we sang the song named Sinterklaas kapoentje, whose lyrics is below:

Sinterklaas kapoentje (Sinterklaas dear little capon)
Gooi wat in mijn schoentje (Put something in my little shoe)
Gooi wat in mijn laarsje (Put something in my little boot)
Dank je Sinterklaasje! (Thank you dear Sinterklaas!)

Sinterklaasje bonne bonne bonne (Sinterklaasje bonne bonne bonne)
Leg wat in mijn lege lege tonne (Throw something in my empty empty buckets)
Leg wat in de huizen (Throw something in the houses)
We zullen knabbelen als muizen! (We shall nibble like mice!)

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