November 21st, 2009 – by: JP-NED
The Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, is an annual event which has been uniquely Dutch and Flemish for centuries. St. Nicholas' Feast Day, December 6th, is observed in most Roman Catholic countries primarily as a feast for small children. But it is only in the Low Countries - especially in the Netherlands - that the eve of his feast day (December 5th) is celebrated nationwide by young and old, christian and non-christian, and without any religious overtones.
Although Sinterklaas is always portrayed in the vestments of the bishop he once was, his status as a canonized saint has had little to do with the way the Dutch think of him. Rather, he is a kind of benevolent old man, whose feast day is observed by exchanging gifts and making good-natured fun of each other. It so happens that the legend of St. Nicholas is based on historical fact. He did actually exist. He lived from 271 A.D. to December 6th, 342 or 343. His 4th century tomb in the town of Myra, near the city of Anatolia in present-day Turkey, has even been dug up by archaeologists.