Sinterklaas is the most beloved of all Dutch holidays and traditions. The children are told about a very old Spanish bishop called Sinterklaas, who is fond of children. This Iberian prelate visits the Low Lands every year by the end of November and leaves quietly after December 5th.

On 5 December, also known as ‘Pakjesavond’ in Holland, the Saint rides his horse over the roofs of the houses while his assistants shin down the chimneys to get the carrots and hay left for the Saint’s horse by the children of the house. The morning before the feast of St. Nicholas, children all over the country wake up excited for gifts and candy while thousands of adults go to their mirrors to apply brown paint and red lips. In their Zwarte Piet costumes, they fill central Amsterdam and small village streets, ushering in the arrival of Sinterklaas who, in the Dutch tradition, rides a flying white horse.

Ever wonder – Why ‘Zwarte Piet’ (one or more black men accompanied by the bishop) painted their face with brown and red color? the saying is “He is just black because he came down the chimney.”

Traditionally, presents were left for good children and deportation back to Spain in an old sack threatened for those who misbehaved. During the period leading up to Sinterklaas, they also find small presents and goodies in shoes they have left out near the chimney for the Saint to fill. Adults too indulge wholeheartedly in the festival, exchanging surprise gifts and writing humorous poems about each other.

Hope this give you some idea about the famous and much awaited Sinterklaas. Now its time to go out, eat some pepernoten, speculaas, and kruidnoten, write some poems, buy some presents, paint your face and join in the fun!