Sinterklaas (English: Saint Nicholas) is the main figure of the holiday of the same name. The holiday is celebrated in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and some former Dutch colonies. The holiday is celebrated on the 5th and 6th of December. Sinterklaas wears a red cloak, a red miter with a golden cross and a crosier. Sinterklaas is always accompanied by his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). They have black face paint, red lips, an afro and a jester-like uniform. They also have a birching to punish bad children, and jute bag filled with 'strooigoed' and presents.

Sinterklaas also has a white horse called Amerigo.



Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands a couple of weeks before the 5th of December. He travels from Spain on his steamboat. And when the Sint and when he arrives, there is a big show, and a lot of people watch him enter the country. Children sing songs for him as he walks through town on his horse, and the Pieten throw 'strooigoed'. It is one big party!

Shoe in front of the fireplace

The children can put their shoe in front of the fireplace (or heater if you don't have a fireplace). Then Sinterklaas or one of his Zwarte Pieten puts something in your shoe when you're asleep. It is often candy, but can also be a small present. The kids usually do something in return for this, so they put a painting of Sinterklaas or a carrot for his horse in their shoe. They also sing Sinterklaas songs in front of the shoes before they go to bed.

Sinterklaas songs

The children sing a lot of songs in front of their shoes, but they also sing songs when the Sint arrives in town. There are a lot of songs, here are a few links to some:

Sinterklaas Kapoentje

Oh kom er eens kijken

Zie ginds komt de stoomboot


There is a lot of traditional Sinterklaas candy. Most of it is found in your shoe, but the Zwarte Pieten also have a lot of candy in their jute bags. One of the things you often find in your shoe is a chocolate letter. It is a letter made of chocolate, and you get the letter your name starts with. The Zwarte Pieten have 'strooigoed' in their jute bags. it literally translates to scatter goods, because the Zwarte Pieten throw the candy. They do not throw at the children, but in the air so the children can catch it. The strooigoed exists of: Kruidnoten, Pepernoten, Taaitaai, Merinque, and little candy hearts. Other traditional Sinterklaas candy are Marzipan dolls and Speculoos dolls.

i.imgur.com_7ayuufr.jpg Strooigoed

Presents evening

The big day! In the evening of 5 December it is presents evening. This is when the Sint will give you your long awaited presents. It will not just be some candy, but a big present! The Zwarte Piet will knock on your door, and when you open the door you will find his jute bag with presents!

Be good or you get hit with the birching

To actually get presents you have to be a good kid! How does the Sint know you are a good kid? Easy, the Zwarte Pieten spy on you all year, and tell the Sint if you've been nice or not. The Sint writes everything down in his 'big book'. If you've been nice, you will get presents, but if you haven't been nice, Zwarte Piet will hit you with the birching. Have you been really naughty? Zwarte Piet will put you in the jute bag and the Sint will take you back on the steamboat to Spain! You definitely do not want this!

Controversy around the Zwarte Piet

There's always been some controversy around the Zwarte Piet, because he obviously shows signs of being a slave. He is a stereotypical black person (he even used to have big golden earrings), and has to do all the dirty work for Sinterklaas. However, it has always been tradition and was never meant in a bad way against black people. There have always been some opinions around it, but nothing serious. As of 2013, some people decided to protest against it., and it has to stop! There have been A LOT of protests to ban the Zwarte Piet. These protest have also been at the arrival of the Sint, where people decide to ruin the holiday for all the little children over there. In my opinion it is stupid to protest against such a thing. The idea of Zwarte Piet obviously originates from slaves, but it should no longer be associated with that. Zwarte Piet has been a helper for the Sint for many decades, and it is in no way meant in a racist way. I think it is really weak to protest at the official places, since there are a lot of children over there who just want to celebrate the holiday, and these people want to spoil it for them. In my opinion, the Zwarte Piet should stay as it is.


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