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Dutch traditions

5 December - Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas)
 
The typical Dutch personality called ''Sinterklaas'', or St. Nicholas, will be familiar to anyone whose Christmas celebrations include a white-bearded, red-clothed male figure who gives presents to children.
 
Every year, about three weeks before December 5, Sinterklaas and his band of helpers arrive in the Netherlands from Spain by steamboat. Before the arrival (intocht), the news traditionally starts at the ''Sinterklaasjournaal''. This starts this year at the 9th of November. The arrival is at November 12 in Masluis and is shown live on television NPO 3 by NTR, the highlights are shown on the news. 
 
For the next three weeks, Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet helpers tour the Netherlands visiting children at school, in the creche, at sports events, etc. Then on December 5 he will visit some homes personally with his big book or presents are dropped off in a sack at the doorstep. Then you will get your presents.
 
More about Sinterklaas
 
Throughout the centuries, Sinterklaas has been considered the patron saint of children, as well as of traders. Consequently, on 5 December he brings children gifts that are discreetly dropped off in a sack on the doorstep of each household. 
 
During the evening, families exchange small gifts, normally hidden somewhere or in something. Besides looking for and opening presents, people drink hot chocolate and eat special sweets and pastries. Chocolate letters representing the first letter of the recipient's name are exchanged.
 
Despite the initial similarities with Santa Claus, Sinterklaas lives in Spain, not at the North Pole. Santa Claus flies in from the North Pole on his sleigh, but Sinterklaas and his white horse arrive in the Netherlands from Spain on a steamboat. Santa Claus squeezes up and down chimneys delivering gifts, but Sinterklaas has a whole crew of helpers named Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes, to do that for him.