How to experience the Full Spirit of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands

Sinterklaas” is just around the corner! For those living in the Netherlands or visiting here for a while, will already know that he officially arrived from his home in Spain on a steamship a couple of weeks ago. Often recognized- due to his red and white attire- as Santa Claus, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is close to the hearts of the Dutchies.  Whether, it’s your first time in the Netherlands or you’ve already celebrated “Sinterklaas” for at least once in your life, here is some advice so that you don’t miss any of the opportunities to experience the full spirit of this time of the year, in a unique way.


The dates: Note the 5th and 6th of December on your calendar! 

Probably these are the most important dates not to miss out if you are living in the Netherlands! The main St. Nicholas Eve is tomorrow the 6th of December and Dutch don’t miss the chance to celebrate it. However, the evening of the 5th of December is also very important. Surprise-surprise! Tonight you will find yourself unwrapping plenty of gifts from family and friends, and hopefully you will give them back gifts in exchange, as this is the evening of what the Dutch call as Sinterklaasavond (Sinterklaas evening) or Pakjesavond (presents evening). Don’t forget to wish them “Fijne Sinterklaasavond!



The tradition

A little before the Sinterklaasavond –as the story goes- Sinterklaas climbs on the roofs with his horse, followed by his helpers, who slither down the chimneys in order to leave gifts at the children’s shoes which they have placed next to the door,  the fireplace or most likely next to the radiators. In order to show their cheer and gratitude to Sinterklaas and his dearest followers, the kids leave a carrot for the horse, a letter with their wishes, and treats for him and his helpers. Important prerequisite: to have been good throughout the year or pray that their loved Saint hasn’t found out about the bad grades! If they have been good they will wake up to unwrap their gifts, accompanied by a short poem which discloses a funny fact about them.



The sounds

Much to your ears’ pleasure, you’ll be the audience for all these children singing traditional Dutch songs and reciting poems for their dear Sinterklaas. If you want to cheer them up a bit, consider going to the local stores and find a Zwarte Piet costume. Don’t be shy! Netherlands is one of the cities where adults actively participate by dressing up.  In any case, Zwarte Piets are one of children’s favorite Christmas characters, and they never miss a chance to take a photo with those walking around the city.


The food

There is no celebration without its own emblematic food. It is really hard not to notice the large chocolate letters on the shelves of the supermarkets and not be tempted to buy one at least for yourself. Don’t forget to place one for each of the first letter of the name of all the family members or friends dining with you tonight. Apart from the chocolate temptation, during these days the city will smell like “Speculaas” as they’re called. These are molded spice cookies and they will be being baked all around the city bakeries just before or right on the 6th of December. Whatever their shape might be, they are delicious and they are a great addition to the Sinterklaas experience!



Capture the moment!

Now that you know how Dutch celebrate this time of the year, don’t miss a moment to capture the fun, love, and happiness of these days. You can treasure all your best memories that you and your loved ones captured during these days in a unique photo album online for free or in print. How? Create your Sinterklaas photo book at and invite all your relatives and friends via email or your social media networks to add their favorite photos with you. If you want to know how easy it is, read also this blog post explaining how you can do it in just 5 steps. 

And like Dutch say: “Fijne Sinterklaas iedereen!


You can begin creating your collaborative photo book for free here:

Leave a Reply