Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Netherlands - Sinterklaas and Zwarte Pieten

Today, Sinterklaas came to town!

Wait wait wait, it's not Christmas yet! Today is the 17th of November! Santa Claus? Am I drunk? No I'm not! Well, I am not used to the idea that Sinterklaas (or Santa Claus) Day falls on the 5th of December. Growing up in Asia, and later in the United States, the only thing I know about Santa Claus was that he comes during Christmas time to give presents for good kids. Well, my parents have never taught me about Santa Claus giving presents because they deliberately told me that they bought the presents for us. I never had the experience of having my childhood belief about Santa Claus crushed. I guess it's a good thing, because this way I directly thanked my parents for the presents, not some weird, fat, bearded old man in thick red clothes in the middle of the super steaming hot equatorial country. Oh and we don't have chimney in our house too; it's useless.

But anyways, today Sinterklaas came to our town by boat.

According to the story, Sinterklaas came from Spain and that's why you see the Spanish flag at the end of the steam boat, and also in front it says "Spanish cargo boat" in Dutch.

There were a lot of families who came to see Sinterklaas. The children were dressed up really nicely. Some wore Sinterklaas costume (it's a little different from the Santa Claus image you see on movies and cartoons; Sinterklaas's costume resemble that of a bishop or a pope), some wore the Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) costume: 

The Zwarte Piet (or Zwarte Pieten in plural) is the helper of Sinterklaas - kind of like the elves of Santa Claus. They are black from top to toe, but they wear colorful clothes.

Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten came in a boat with a box full of presents for good kids. 

After they got off the boat, Sinterklaas greeted the children, waving his hands and shaking the children's hands. Sometimes the Zwarte Pieten next to him will throw kruidnoten (ginger nuts - they're actually cookies) from a sack and you can catch them and eat them. I didn't get any, but smart kids came with plastic bags to catch them ;)

Then the group continued to parade around the town towards the City Hall on a horse carriage.

I didn't follow them to the City Hall because there were just too many people around. The whole town was really lively, and I was surprised to see that many residents in my town. I only see university students every day, so it's great to see the crowd.

I think there will be another celebration on the 5th of December because it is Sinterklaas Day. I'm looking forward to it!


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