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Sinterklaas is the name for the gift giver St. Nicholas in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas traditionally arrives in the Netherlands by boat from Spain in mid November with his assistant Zwarte Piet. They parade through the streets, Sinterklaas on his horse and Zwarte Piet walking along tossing sweets to the children.
Sinterklaasvond, December 5th is the day that children believe Sinterklass, along with Zwarte Piet, brings their gifts. Sinterklaas may arrive on the rooftop riding his horse with Zwarte Piet bringing the gifts done the chimney or through a window or they make knock on the front door leaving a bag full of gifts on the doorstep.
There are many different stories about the origin of the Sinterklaas/St. Nicholas figure. In the most popular version, he was born in the seaport town of Petra, Lycia around 270AD to a wealthy family. Upon the death of his parents, he gave away his wealth to the poor and entered the priesthood. He was imprisoned for his Christian beliefs until released by Constantine in 313 AD. Saint Nicholas became the Archbishop of Myra. Because of his good deeds and attributed miracles, after his death, on December 6 about 340 AD he became the patron saint of merchants, sailors and children.
The story of St. Nicholas and his good deeds and gift giving spread through out Europe by Christian pilgrims and the date of his death December 6th became his feast day. It is thought that sailors from Spain brought the legend of St. Nicholas to the Netherlands, which is the reason his boat traditionally comes from Spain each year.
Sinterklaas is the major influence for our present day Santa Claus. The folklore of Sinterklaas was brought to New York by the early Dutch settlers and was then later popularized by Washington Irving’s writings.
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