When Christmas was coming last year, I decided to check out how it is celebrated in the Netherlands. It seemed to me that it was a little bit different here. Then I found out about Sinterklaas. At first I thought it was the Dutch name for Santa, but he is actually totally different. The Netherlands, apparently, is so special and unique that they have their own version of St Nicholas.
He gives presents on the 5th of December, not on Christmas day. He doesn’t live in the North Pole, but in Spain. He doesn’t use a sled, but a steamboat. And he has no reindeer, but a white horse that miraculously walks on rooftops.
You can imagine I was laughing at this point, but wait, here comes the really funny part: the helpers. They are not elves, but ‘Pieten’. If you don’t know them just google it and see for yourself. Children who don’t behave well will receive no presents; Piet will put them inside a bag and take them back to Spain.
I’ve seen Sint and Piet arrive at the harbour and had the opportunity to experience this moment that is so magical to Dutch people. The joyfulness of the children was amazing. And of course it was really cool to get some ‘pepernoten’ from the Pieten. So if you didn’t do this, go to the supermarket and buy some ‘pepernoten’ and other typical Sinterklaas goodies, which are delicious. And enjoy the 5th of December.
I think Sinterklaas and Santa are relatives and they divide the tasks at the end of the year. It’s too much for just one person.
Julio Silva, PhD student of plant pathology, from Brazil
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NL: Wit paard
Toen Julio Silva uit Brazilië zich vorig najaar verdiepte in de Nederlandse kerstgewoontes, stuitte hij tot zijn verrassing op Sinterklaas. Eerst dacht hij nog dat dit de Nederlandse naam was voor Santa Claus, maar hij vond opvallende verschillen. Zo heeft Klaas een wit paard in plaats van rendieren en geeft hij al op 5 december cadeautjes. In de haven zag Julio het magische effect dat de aankomst van de boot met Sint en Piet heeft op Nederlandse kinderen. Hij concludeerde dat Klaas en Claus de taken aan het eind van het jaar hebben verdeeld.