Sinterklaas for Expats: He’s NOT Santa Claus!

It’s Sinterklaas season!

UnClogged in Amsterdam

Photo Credit: Zwart Piet and Sinterklaas. Photo Credit:

Amidst all the merriment, mythology and gluttony, holiday traditions hold clues to a nation’s temperament and personality. In Holland, those at year-end can be confusing for expats unfamiliar with Sinterklaas or Father Christmas—Sint-Nicolaas in Dutch. Based on St. Nicolaas of Myra, patron saint of children, sailors and Amsterdam, among other things, Sinterklaas is the forerunner of North America’s Santa Claus. In the Netherlands and Belgium, his birth is celebrated annually on St. Nicholas Eve—December 5. Referring to both the superhero himself and his namesake holiday, Sinterklaas separates secular gift-giving from religious observance. In a departure from strict Calvinism, the holiday tolerates conspicuous consumption while saving December 25 for more respectful Christian worship.

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