This is our third year with the skinny man in the tall red miter and I have to say that this year is the first year I think I've truly understood the extent of his reach, which is so much bigger and stronger than Santa Claus in the States. I know that some Americans may scoff at that idea when store Christmas displays have started creeping into view around Halloween, but I'm not exaggerating - Santa has nothing on Sint.
Firstly, Sinterklaas is for everyone. It doesn't matter what religion your family follows - Sinterklaas comes for every child in the Netherlands. While the feast day of Saint Nicolas certainly has it's roots in the Christian church's calendar, the way the day is recognized and celebrated has gone under a significant transformation into a very secular holiday. Because the focus is on the kids and family time there is no tension (that I've seen) from religious differences.
|Sinterklaas' arrival in Tilburg 2014|
And since he comes for everyone, the whole country seems to go nuts with the Sinterklaas season. Officially, it begins with the intocht - Sinterklaas' arrival by steamboat in the Netherlands - in mid November. He's met with great pomp, and the arrival is televised nationally, followed the next day by his intocht into the other cities and villages. He rides upon is brilliant white horse, accompanied by all the Pieten.
And then the craziness really starts to ramp up. The Sinterklaasjournaal is the daily children's "news" show, keeping the kids updated on Sint and the Pieten's preparations for Pakjesavond,and as far as I can tell, every kid watches it. Pieten come to the schools during the build up to December 5th, showering children with pepernoten where ever they go. And Sinterklaas himself makes appearances at special occasions (we got to see him at the University a week ago) and finally at the schools on the morning of December 5th. It really feels like everyone is in it, and there's no escape, particularly when you have a school-aged child.
|Our homemade pepernoten. Typically round, Little Man decided to make|
pepernoten snakes. Yes, we're fully aware of what they resemble...
But for all the intensity of the build-up, I will say, it's amazing how every child is involved. No one is left out. And while there's certainly plenty of controversy in the holiday, it is nice to feel the inclusiveness for all the kids.
If Sinterklaas is making his way to your home tonight, enjoy the evening. And if you live outside of NL, enjoy the day anyway.