Posted by: yourparadise | December 5, 2010

December 5th, a special day

At December 5th it’s a very special day in the Netherlands. Especially for the little children.

The story goes that in the evening of December the 5th an old man, named ‘Sinterklaas’, visits all the houses in the Netherlands. Through the fireplace he goes in the houses, together with his assistant ‘Zwarte Piet’. All the children who have been good the whole year get a present from him.

A few days before December the 5th, Sinterklaas comes to the Netherlands with his boat and all his helpers. He lives in Spain so it’s a long journey for him.  Many children are going to watch when he finally arrives in the Netherlands.

The days before the 5th of December, and the day itself, the children place one of their shoes before the fireplace before they go to sleep. They sing a few songs that are specially for this date. If there is no fireplace in the house, they place their shoe before the heating or the door. The next morning the children discover that Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet (literally: Black Piet) visited their house, because there is some candy or a chocolate letter in their shoe! To thank for the present they write something for Sinterklaas, draw something or give a carrot for the horse from Sinterklaas. They place that next to their shoes so that the next evening Sinterklaas will get it if he comes again.

Sinterklaas with one Zwarte Piet

When it’s finally the evening of December 5th, the whole family gets together. Everyone gets a gift from Sinterklaas, with a short rhyme. The rhyme is about the present, or about the person who got it.

There are also a few other places in Europe where they celebrate this day, but everywhere it’s different. In Belgium for example, they celebrate it in the morning of December 6th. They sing no songs.

At the schools, the children are also celebrating it. This happens at primary schools but also in highschools sometimes. Every person writes his name on a paper and says what he wants to get as a present. Another person gets this paper, without knowing who got your paper. Then the person buys a present for the other one, makes a rhyme and makes a ‘surprise’. It’s something made from paper, carton or something else. Very often it’s something the other person likes. If a girl really likes horses for example, the chance is really big that she will get a horse. Later at school all the children come together and one by one they get their surprise, gift and rhyme. After that they have to guess from which person they got everything.

One of the rhymes I got

There’s also a lot of special candy around these days. There are ‘pepernoten’, ‘speculaas’, ‘taai taai’, chocolate and many other delicious things.

Now that you know all these things, you see that Sinterklaas is actually really familiar to Santa Claus, but there is also a big difference. Most of the people also celebrate Christmas here, but not everyone.  I think that December 5th and Christmas are very different. The songs from December 5th are more for little children, while the songs from Christmas can be sung by everyone. There is also a lot of decoration by both dates and that makes it even better!

I’ll end this post with some songs that the little children sing. I tried to make a translation of the songs, but it’s not a perfect translation.  Hope you liked this post!

‘Sinterklaasje come inside with your helper, because we’re all sitting straight up. Maybe you have some time, before you go back to Spain. Come stand by us and let your little horse stand outside. And we sing and jump and we are so happy, because there are no bad children. And we sing and jump and we are so happy, becuase there are no bad children.’ (2X)

‘Sinterklaas kapoentje, throw something in my little show. Bring something in my little boot. Thank you Sinterklaasje!’

Note: In Dutch we have diminutives. In some lands like the Netherlands you’ll find that in the language. For example the word ‘Paardje’ there is in one song. The actual word is ‘Paard’, what means horse, but with the -je after ‘paard’  it becomse a diminutive. If you were to translate the word ‘Paardje’, it would be something like ‘little horse’. But in this context it’s actually used as a cute way of saying ‘horse’.



  1. Thank you for the lesson. I really enjoy learning of other cultures and experiences within those cultures.

    • Thank you! I agree that it’s really fun to learn something about other cultures. As you can see, every country definitely has it’s own traditions.

  2. […] children gifts. This is on December 5th. If you want to learn more about Sinterklaas, you can read this post I’ve written a year […]

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