Procession of "Sinterklaas"

Scheveningen Travel Blog

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Waiting for the steamboat of "Sinterklaas" at the harbour of Scheveningen

In the Netherlands we have besides Christmas and the Santa Claus another children's feast "Sinterklaas".

Sinterklaas (also called Sint-Nicolaas or De Goedheiligman in Dutch and Saint Nicolas in French) is a traditional Winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Suriname and Netherlands Antilles, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve 5 December or, in Belgium, on the morning of December 6th. The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children.

It is also celebrated in the traditionally Germanic parts of France (North, Alsace, Lorraine), as well as in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia,  Slovenia, the Czech Rupublic and in the town of  Trieste and in Eastern Friuli in  Italy.

a little afraid of "Zwarte Piet"
Additionally, many Roman Catholics of Alsatian and Lotharingian descent in Cincinnati, Ohio, celebrate "Saint Nicholas Day" on the morning of December 6. The traditions differ from country to country, even between Belgium and the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas' Eve (December 5) is the chief occasion for gift-giving. The evening is called "sinterklaasavond" or "pakjesavond" ("presents evening"). In the Netherlands, children receive their presents on this evening whereas in Belgium, children put their shoe in front of the fireplace on the evening of December 5, then go to bed, and find the presents around the shoes on the morning of the 6th.

The Sinterklaas feast celebrates the name day, December 6, of Saint Nicholas (280��"342), patron saint of children and sailors.

procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Childrensfeast in the Netherlands)
Saint Nicholas was a bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey. In the eleventh century, his relics were moved to Italy making it a Church holiday. This was paving the way for the folk feast.

Sinterklaas has a long red cape, wears a white bishop's dress and red mitre (bishop's hat), and holds a crosier, a long gold coloured staff with a fancy curled top. He carries a big book that tells whether each individual child has been good or naughty in the past year. He traditionally rides a white horse.

" Zwarte Piet," Sinterklaas's helping hand Black Pete, has his origin in the bishop's legendary past. Three small Moorish boys were sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit. The bishop intervened and they were saved. To show their gratitude, the boys stayed with Sinterklaas to help him, tumbling and jumping on rooftops on Sinterklaas night to deliver presents.

procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Childrensfeast in the Netherlands)
Their black skin may refer either to their Moorish background, or to the job of chimneysweep, an option is corroborated by their clothes, reminiscent of an Italian chimneysweep's costume and Pete's rooftop occupation. Another background story for Pete is that he is the devil who was enslaved by Sinterklaas. Nowadays, children in the Netherlands are told that the Pieten work for Sinterklaas voluntarily and that there is a special school in Spain where they learn their trade.

Sinterklaas originally had only one Zwarte Piet. The concept of multiple Pieten was introduced by the Canadians when they helped organising the first post-WWII Sinterklaas celebration. Most traditional Sinterklaas songs still mention only one Zwarte Piet.

Sinterklaas and his Black Petes usually carry a bag, which contains candy for nice children and a "roe," a bunch of willow branches used to spank naughty children; in actuality a chimneysweep's broom.

procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Childrensfeast in the Netherlands)
Some of the older Sinterklaas songs make mention of naughty children being put in the bag and being taken back to Spain. The Zwarte Pieten toss candy around, a tradition supposedly originating in Sint Nicolaas' story of saving three young girls from prostitution by tossing golden coins through their window at night to pay their father's debts.

Sinterklaas traditionally arrives each year in mid-November (usually on a Saturday) by steamboat from Spain (even though the bishop was originally from Asia Minor). Some suggest that gifts associated with the holy man such as Mandarin oranges led to the misconception that he must have been from Spain. He is then paraded through the streets, welcomed by cheering and singing children. This event is broadcast live on national television in the Netherlands and Belgium.

procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Childrensfeast in the Netherlands)

Anyway, we ( my sister in Law, my two nephews and I) went on the 15th of november 2008 to the harbour of Scheveningen to welcome Sinterklaas from Spain to the Netherlands. It was a cold morning and we had to wait for quite some time. After that it was time to watch the procession of Sinterklaas in the oldtown of Scheveningen and shopping area "The Keizerstraat". The children had the time of their lives and for a moment they were quite impressed and silent! What a lovely moment that was hahaha

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Waiting for the steamboat of Sint…
Waiting for the steamboat of "Sin…
a little afraid of Zwarte Piet
a little afraid of "Zwarte Piet"
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
My two adorable but very naughty n…
My two adorable but very naughty …
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
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procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
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procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
procession of Sinterklaas (a Chi…
procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
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There he comes!
There he comes!
At last finally Sinterklaas!!!
At last finally Sinterklaas!!!
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procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
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procession of "Sinterklaas" (a Ch…
tired and deeply impressed by Sin…
tired and deeply impressed by "Si…
Scheveningen
photo by: EmyG