That sweet, kind Sint
My best friend, your best friend
The friend of every child.”
The above is a translation of a Dutch song typically sung around this time of year, due to the 5th of December marking the celebration of Sinterklaas. This Dutch tradition sees children placing a shoe in front of the fireplace and singing a song before going to sleep, all in hopes of receiving a present from Sinterklaas the next morning. While outsiders sometimes confuse the translated “Saint Nicholas” with Santa Clause, due to the similarity in name but also in characteristics of the white-bearded, red-cloaked man; there are quite a few differences between the two.
When viewed from an outside perspective, the tradition is quite strange and could be seen as confusing. This is why the following article will list a series of differences between the two traditions and their main characters, but also some notable similarities.
- Sinterklaas is not fat, while Santa Claus is very much seen as a jolly, old, round man.
- Santa has red-nosed animal helpers, while Sinterklaas has helpers dressed in colourful jester-like outfits
- Sinterklaas starts halfway through November, ending on the 5th of December. Christmas, of course, takes place on the 25th, however, twinkle lights are acceptable year-round (as are Christmas trees for many students).
- While Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the 5th of December is actually the day on which Sinterklaas died.
- Children will leave a carrot in their shoe as a snack for the horse on which Sinterklaas rides, much like leaving cookies and milk for Santa.
- The giving of gifts is central for many (children), as is the consumption of lots of (sweet) foods
- An aura of magic and mystery surrounds the two men dressed in red, leading many children to believe that a fat, bearded man travels down everyone’s chimney and leaves behind a present.
- Both Sinterklaas and Santa Clause have their own unique form of transportation; the former a large steamboat, and the latter a gravity-defying sleigh.
According to the University of Utrecht, the Dutch holiday of Saint Nicholas travelled to New York, still New Amsterdam at the time, so we can proudly say that Christmas originated in our cold, rainy, kruidnoot loving country.
Will you be celebrating Sinterklaas this year?
Die lieve goede Sint
Mijn beste vriend, jouw beste vriend
De vriend van ieder kind”