Things to do in November: welcoming Sinter Klaas

If in other parts of the world everyone is quite chill, not thinking about Christmas and all the craziness which comes with it, in The Netherlands there’s a different atmosphere. And even if Christmas is celebrated too, there’s no holiday during the year compared with Sinter Klaas.

These are the main ingredients you need to celebrate Sinter Klaas properly: chocolate letters to share with your friends/family, pepernoten (which are not something else than some small cookie tasting mainly as cinnamon), marzipan figures only to make fun of them (I guess) and speculaas (biscuits which contain a lot of cinnamon). The stores are filled since one month ago with all of these, just like Christmas lights will appear in around 2 weeks from now.

Celebrated officially in December (on 5th), Sinter Klaas starts for kids in November. Usually in the middle of the month he will come by boat to each city of the country and he will share the sweet pepernoten to kids. He looks quite a lot like the American Santa Claus, but they don’t have the same story. In fact, Sinter Klaas is Saint Nicholas, one important figure in Christian religions. He is known as the saint of the kids and it is celebrated on 6th of December in most of the Christian countries. He comes from Myra, Turkey and in his travels he is helping kids. His entire story here.

But the Dutch changed a bit the story and they say that on that day Sinter Klaas is coming from Spain. What is more controversial is that he is always together with a group of people which paint their face and hands in black, being called Black Piet (Zwarte Piet). Nowadays, due to globalisation and the history of The Netherlands colonising many countries, doing slavery in the Caribbean’s and so on, the entire act is a bit under fire and the country is divided into 2. For many years now, there’s a push not to paint yourself with black anymore, but the traditional Dutch are fighting against it. Each year this discussion arrises in the country and it’s one of the hardest taboo’s to beat.

In 2018 Sinter Klaas will come, mostly, in the weekend of 17-18 November. Expect a lot of kids on the streets and don’t get surprised to see many people painted in black, wearing crazy costumes of all colours possible. One tip to pick the best city to see this: choose a city with canals/ rivers, as Sinter Klaas will come on a boat and it makes everything more interesting.

Here a few of the cities which already announced the day and time of the arrival:

  • Haarlem, on 18.11.2018, at 13:00, on Spaarne. It can be checked from across Adriaan’s Windmill.
  • Zaandijk, on 17.11.2018. He will visit both Zaandijk and Zaanse Schans.
  • and if you are not here in that weekend you can visit Leiden on 24.11.2018 to welcome him there.

So if you are curious to see kids over the limit of happiness, a Dutch Santa Claus and the disputed Zwarte Piet you should have this in your plans. There are only 3 weeks left! Enjoy!

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