Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
45Trip End Jul 02, 2012
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Dutch tradition is that Sinterklaas and his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), arrive in the city via a steamboat from Madrid, Spain - where Sinterklaas lives. Since Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of Amsterdam, we have a big boat parade up the Amstel River and some canals and then a parade through the streets. The city streets and alleyways are also lit up with Christmas lights at night, which are really pretty.
Dutch children who haven't been naughty get presents on December 5, which is known as Sinterklaas-avond (Saint Nicholas Eve). Our version of Santa Claus in North America comes from a merger of the Dutch Sinterklaas with the English Father Christmas and other European traditions
I got to see Sinterklaas ride in his boat up the Amstel and then I walked over to Dam Square and saw the parade from in front of the Bijenkorf department store. The Zwarte Pieten were really neat - I got to see them repelling from the top of the Bijenkorf and they roller-skated around giving gingerbread cookies to children. The children here love Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. Their excitement was rather infectious. I wanted to chant "Sinterklaas, Sinterklaas!" when they were, but then I realized I'm 22. Being old stinks!
I'm really glad I got to see the celebration. So far it's my favorite thing I've done in Amsterdam. If you're ever here during this time, you have to check it out!