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Manu | 18 November 2012 | 3 comments

Sinterklaas enters Amsterdam on his boat through the Amstel river

I am not a big Christmas fan at all, but I must admit the arrival of Sintaklaas in Amsterdam is contagious and today I experienced it!

Sinterklaas on his white horse in Amsterdam

The legend say that Sinter Klaas, Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Mira, came to Holland from Turkey before reaching his final destination in Spain. And every year he comes back from Spain to visit the town, crossing the Amstel river on his boat together with thousand swarte pieten who surround him giving peppernoten to the children and making the atmosphere joyfull. When he arrived next to the Maritime Museum, next to the Central station, he is officially welcome by the Mayor of Amsterdam, and then on his white horse he starts to cross the streets of the town to greet all the children who came to see him.

Children pointing at Sint’s arrival

One of the 700 Zwarte pieten entertaining the children

The atmosphere in the streets of Amsterdam today was simply amazing. More than 400000 people, mostly children, come downtown to see Santa’s show. It was their day. I enjoyed walking around and watching their faces of wonder and happiness. For the children this day must be amazing. They may have been waiting for it all year and I can understand why. The town is invaded by Swarte Pieten, Santa’s helpers, who distribute sweets and candy to everybody, but also sing, dance, paly instruments, entertain and play with their little public.

Amsterdam people greeting sint’s arrival in town

You can understand Sinterklaas is approaching by the sight of the children and by the fact that they all point at something far away. They know he is coming, there is a bit of magic in this, in their eyes full of impatience and wonder. I thought it was just beautiful to look at them and to look at what happened today through their pure eyes, and this is what I saw:

Surprise, wonder and happiness all in her little face

Elvis Zwarte piet

Pointing at something far, that’s how you understand Sint is arriving

Everybody was a Zwarte piet today

Sinterklaas music band

Zwarte Piet enjoying the sunshine

Thanks to the magic of a dream…



Watch the entire album



  • Wonderful post Manu, I cringe when I think of how twisted
    Christmas has become here the USA. Nice to be reminded
    of how the modern celebration started.
    Looks like it was a beautiful sunny day.

  • Manu says:

    It was a beautiful sunny day Chris! And an astonishing sweet atmosphere in town!

  • Car says:

    ChrisTopher, this is Sinterklaas, not Christmas. Sinterklaas comes bringing gifts for the children on December 5. For Christmas the Dutch have Kerstdag.

    I enjoyed it. And I also love Christmas is the US. I have no idea how Christmas has become ‘twisted’ in the US, particularly in comparison to the Nehterlands. A country, where people line up the day before to get a new iPhone, just like anywehre else. Then again, you are not the first self-deprecating American I know preaching how the US is so horrid and the rest of the world perfectly aligns with whatever prepackaged philosophy and morale system you espouse.

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