Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sinterklaas Arrives in Diemen

We have been watching as beautiful Christmas decorations have started to appear on the streets of Amsterdam.

To kick off the Christmas season, Sinterklaas is scheduled to arrive this morning from Spain.  This young man, one of Sinterklaas's helpers, eagerly watches for his arrival.

November 19th was the exciting day for Sinterklaas to arrive in Diemen.  He came all the way from Spain by boat, and was eagerly awaited by hundreds of excited boys and girls.
This small boat carrying some of his helpers (Swarte Piets or Black Petes) came in advance of the boat carrying Sinterklaas.

One of the Black Petes jumped into the freezing water for a short dip.  Brrrrrrrr..

A young boy on the sidelines was all dressed up in his Black Pete costume, and was happy to let me take his picture.

Crowds lined both sides of the canal from the first bridge (the one we cross to reach our apartment) to the second bridge about 2 blocks farther up the street.

The children sang songs and recited poems while they waited for Sinterklaas to arrive.

Black Petes were busy handing out goodies to the waiting crowd.

Here he comes!!!  The boat on the right is carrying lots of Black Petes and Sinterklaas - the main attraction - is on the boat to the left.

The Black Petes have had a long journey.  As you can see, the word Spanje (Spain) is clearly written on the side.

The Black Petes are very colorful!  They look like court jesters from medieval days.  The story goes that they were originally Moors living in Spain during the days of Sinterklaas's charitable works among the poor.

Sinterklaas, (or St. Nicholas) the one in the bright red cloak and tall red hat with a golden cross,  was born in 271 A.D. and lived to December 6, 342 or 343 in Spain.  He was a benevolent priest who often walked through the town at night leaving small gifts on the doorsteps of the poor. 

Tradition has it that he enlisted the help of a Moorish knave called Piet to help carry his packages. 

Black Pete - a grinning, happy fellow - carries a birch rod and a sack of goodies.  If the children are good they get the goodies.  If they have been naughty, his sack is large enough to carry them away.

We're talking REALLY black, Black Petes.

And LOTS of them!  The newspaper reported that when Sinterklaas arrived in Amsterdam he brought 500 Black Petes.  We probably saw around 50 here - but we're a much smaller city.

The traditional treat from Black Petes bag is a handful of spicey cookies called Kruid Noten.  They taste similar to gingerbread and are about the size of a far quarter.

I'm guessing this one is a Petrina - a girl Pete.

Children anxiously await their gifts from St. Nicholas's helpers.

After making his way down the east side of the canal, Sinterklaas's boat turned and went across to the other side where he waved and smiled at the children on that side of the canal.  There was a white horse on the landing waiting for him to mount and ride to the city building where more children were anxiously watching for his arrival.  The Dutch start getting into the Christmas spirit with Sinterklaas's arrival.  On December 5th they will share small gifts and poems with family members in the tradition of this historical benefactor. 
What a fun way to start the Christmas season! 

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