Today, Sinterklaas arrived in our hometown!
Sinterklaas (also called Sint-Nicolaas or De Goedheiligman in Dutch [Nl-Sint Nikolaas2.ogg pronunciation (help·info)]) and Saint Nicolas in French) is a traditional Winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles and Belgium, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve (December 5) or, in Belgium, on the morning of December 6. The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children.
Sinterklaas has a long red cape, wears a white bishop's dress and red mitre (bishop's hat), and holds a crosier, a long gold coloured staff with a fancy curled top. He carries a big book that tells whether each individual child has been good or naughty in the past year. He traditionally rides a white horse.
 Zwarte Piet
"Zwarte Piet," Sinterklaas' helping hand Black Pete, has his origin in the bishop's legendary past. Three small Moorish boys were sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit. The bishop intervened and they were saved. To show their gratitude, the boys stayed with Sinterklaas to help him, tumbling and jumping on rooftops on Sinterklaas night to deliver presents. Their black skin may refer either to their Moorish background, or to the job of chimneysweep, an option is corroborated by their clothes, reminiscent of an Italian chimneysweep's costume and Pete's rooftop occupation. Another background story for Pete is that he is the devil who was enslaved by Sinterklaas. Nowadays, children in the Netherlands are told that the Pieten work for Sinterklaas voluntarily and that there is a special school in Spain where they learn their trade.
Sinterklaas traditionally arrives each year in mid-November (usually on a Saturday) by steamboat from Spain (even though the bishop was originally from Asia Minor). Some suggest that gifts associated with the holy man such as Mandarin oranges led to the misconception that he must have been from Spain. He is then paraded through the streets, welcomed by cheering and singing children. This event is broadcasted live on national television in the Netherlands and Belgium. His Zwarte Piet assistants throw candy and small, round, ginger bread-like cookies, either "kruidnoten" or "pepernoten," into the crowd. The children welcome him by singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. Sinterklaas also visits schools, hospitals and shopping centers. After this arrival all towns with a dock have their own "intocht van Sinterklaas" (arrival of Sinterklaas). Local arrivals usually take place on Sunday, the day after he arrives in the Netherlands or Belgium. In places a boat cannot reach, Sinterklaas arrives by train, bus, horse, or even carriage.
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