Celebrating Sinterklaas for beginners


Celebrating Sinterklaas for beginners

If you have children living in the Netherlands, you should already know Sinterklaas. It is one of the most popular children's feast in the Netherlands. But who is Sinterklaas, how do the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas and what can you do as a parent? Here is everything you need to know when celebrating Sinterklaas as a beginner!

How do Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas?

Putting out shoe Sinterklaas

On 17 November, St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas) will arrive in The Hague by boat from his home in Spain. Many kids will be really excited for him to come, since they have waited for him the whole year.

Putting out shoes

During the two weeks before his 'birthday', Sinterklaas rides across rooftops at night on his white horse, listening through chimneys for good children and leaving them gifts and sweets in their shoes. It is tradition that children put out their shoe at night with a carrot for the horse. In his book, Sinterklaas has the name of all children and notes on whether they have been good or bad this year, so that he knows who to give gifts or not.


On December 5, Sinterklaas ends with Pakjesavond (Gifts Evening). On Pakjesavond, children anxiously wait for Sinterklaas to knock on their door. Although Sint will usually have flown by the time they answer, a sack full of gifts will await them on their doorstep. Following Sinterklaas' visit, each member of the family takes turns handing out presents and unwrapping them. Names are printed on each gift, and almost every present is accompanied by a humorous poem about the gift's recipient, sometimes teasing them about their good and bad habits.

What should parents do?


As a parent, you will be very busy buying and packing gifts from the day Sinterklaas has arrived. When your kids put their shoe at night (while singing Sinterklaas songs), you can leave a small present or some sweets in there. When they wake up, tell them that Sinterklaas has visited and left something for them in their shoe because they have been very good this year.

Your kids will continue putting their shoes until Pakjesavond on 5 December. During that period, they can watch the Sinterklaasjournaal for all the lastest news on Sinterklaas. For Pakjesavond, you will have to fill a sack with gifts and give them to anyone who could leave it at your front door. That person will have to knock on the door and then your Pakjesavond can begin!

Who is Sinterklaas?

The original Saint Nicholas was a Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the first half of the fourth century. He was seen as the patron saint for children. By the late middle ages, his death on 6 December was commemorated annually. The celebration has now shifted to the night before the 6th.

Nowadays, St Nicholas arrives in Flanders and the Netherlands in November from Spain – it is widely believed that Spanish sailors brought the legend of Saint Nicholas to the Netherlands – to get ready for the special celebrations on 5 December.

St Nicholas and his white horse have also been associated with the pagan legend of the Germanic god Wodon (Danish god Odin), an all-powerful deity who was believed to fly through the air on a magic horse each December on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.