Sinterklaas’ arrival!

Before I start I should probably say that:

  1. I am writing this after pulling a complete all nighter and therefore my brain, and my fingers, feel as though they are floating. If this post makes sense and isn’t scattered with errors it will be a miracle.
  2. I am writing this for my non-Dutch friends so if you’re Dutch and notice any mistakes then please don’t hate me 😉
Here we go!
Yesterday was the arrival of Sinterklaas in Amsterdam and so, naturally, I decided to go along and watch with Leonoor and Dania. After all, I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance to watch something that’s specific to the Netherlands and miss out on watching loads of little children being really happy!
They don’t look so happy but they were, I promise!
Sinterklaas is basically Saint Nicolas and, as such, there are similar aspects to our own Father Christmas figure, although I get shouted at for saying that! While the Sinterklaas festival is the 5th of December, on Saturday, he arrived in the Netherlands and, yesterday in Amsterdam. He arrives by boat and then transfers to a white horse which is ridden along the parade route. He’s also accompanied by Zwarte Pieten who give pepernoten to the children along the route.
I’m not sure if he’s usually joined by a load of old fashioned
fire fighters but he was this time!
As you can probably guess, the figure of Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter, causes a lot of controversy and, from what I can tell, there are attempts every year to change his design (either to multi-coloured Pieten or to ones with streaks of black ‘soot’ on their faces but otherwise not made up). As one might have expected, there was a protest before the event which was cleared away quite calmly by riot police before the children arrived. I guess they didn’t want to risk similar scenes as the day before in Gouda where protests got a bit out of hand. Frankly, I am pleased that the protest ended before children arrived because, while I agree that there should be a change in design with regard to the character, adult politics and campaigning shouldn’t spoil the magic for young children and therefore should be kept out of the event itself.
Naturally, bikes had to be involved somehow!
And that was what was absolutely lovely about the day. Little children who could barely walk having a wonderful day completely full of magic. One little person, upon seeing some Pieten up a clock tower started shouting joyfully to get their attention and get them to wave. A little girl was dressed up as Sinterklaas’ horse with a little cape showing the saint on her back. There was a buzz of excitement and it was lovely to see. Indeed, for Leonoor who grew up with all this, I think it was nice to have the excuse of ‘showing the foreigner’ to let her go and relive her own childhood a little!
These guys just had a party messing around while abseiling – it was
really fun to watch!
The only not great bit about the day was the fact that it was completely chucking it down with that fine rain, non stop. While it was okay as, although we got pretty chilled through, we all warmed up, it has meant that most of my photos turned out rather grainy looking which is a real shame. Oh well, next time!
So yeah, that’s it for today. I guess that I’ll write more about the traditions closer to the 5th if (non-Dutch) people are interested. As for the next few weeks, I’m basically going to be working solidly so, if I don’t post or am not around as much, don’t worry! I’ve somehow, in my infinite wisdom, managed to book at least one social event every single day in December so I really must get ahead with work before the fun (and breakdowns!) really starts!

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