amsterdam, christmas, weekend

Sinterklaas Came to Town

This weekend, something special happened. Sinterklaas came to town. While he looks a lot like our white-bearded friend, Santa Claus, Sinterklaas made notably better arrangements for himself. Instead of living in the chilly North Pole, Sinterklaas lives in the South of Spain.  While Santa flies in from the North Pole through the freezing skies on his sleigh, Sinterklaas takes a relaxing cruise in from the South of Spain. And while Santa Clause has to squeeze his chubby buns down all those chimneys by himself, Sinterklaas has a crew of (controversial) helpers named “Zwarte Pieten”, or “Black Petes”, to do that for him.  

Sunday morning we walked down to Dam Square where thousands of people gathered to welcome Sinterklaas to town. There was a big parade (he rode in on his white horse Amerigo), dancing, singing, candy and cookies being thrown out into the crowd. It was an absolutely crazy experience that can only be somewhat explained through photographic evidence, which, of course, I have for all of you. Oh, and most importantly, I think this means I can officially start listening to the Christmas tunes! Wahoo!

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

22 thoughts on “Sinterklaas Came to Town”

  1. These are such amazing photos! I've always been fascinated by how other cultures celebrate the holidays. I think it's definitely time to bring out the holiday music, will you be coming home for Christmas?

    – Caitlin

  2. Ah!! I love it! The way different cultures and areas celebrate this time of the year is so interesting & magical. Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

  3. I love to see traditions from other countries. Sinterklaas looks a little like the Pope with that big hat. lol These are beautiful pictures.

  4. it's very interesting to see/experience holidays in different cultures. i do have to say that the “helpers” make me feel uncomfortable though…very controverial indeed.

  5. 1. You guys are so cute all bundled up!
    2. I want a hipster baby just like that little guy in the glasses.
    3. This brings back such great memories – I lived in The Hague for three years when I was a kid, and even though we're Jewish my parents let me celebrate with the Dutch traditions. I remember the Sinterklaas parades, waiting for a present on the doorstep, and leaving my wooden shoes on the fireplace. Of course, as a 6 year old I didn't even think twice about a bunch of guys dressing in blackface 🙂

  6. Love your blog! I've been a follower for a while, but I don't think I've ever commented. It looks like you two are having a great time in Amsterdam and settling in nicely!


  7. haha omg how amazing. so funny how there are so many different traditions in so many different countries. i reckon this version of santa would be pretty well suited for australia since we have christmas in the blazing heat and having santa come visit all the way from the freezing north pole doesn't make too much sense haha. but that is why i LOVE christmas. because it is just the best fun and YES i am going to start listening to christmas music now too xx

  8. so fun! the holiday season seems to be so much more enjoyed in europe. and there's no “you can't start celebrating christmas until after thanksgiving” business like over here.

  9. Hi from Germany 😉
    Yes, Sinterklaas indeed does look like a pope. We have him in Germany too (Sankt Nikolaus) and he was a bishop. But we celebrate him on the 6th of December which is his saint's day and he brings socks full of toys and sweets. To us he also comes with his black helper, who is there for the children that were naughty.
    On christmas we have “Christ Child” (Christkind), which is something like an angel bringing presents 🙂

  10. Curly wigs and black-face? Yikes. The images make my chest clench up. And Black Petes? I can understand why that would be a controversial celebration.

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