On Sunday morning I got up very early to greet a special guest coming into town. Every year without fail, Sinterklaas arrives in Holland, coming by steamboat from Spain. He sails up the Amstel river and then parades through Amsterdam, smiling, waving and spreading holiday joy throughout the city. For the past two years I’ve managed to accidentally stumble across the parade, but this year I went for a slightly more organized approach. Bex and I planned to meet up for an early coffee at Two For Joy, followed by a Santa stakeout at the Amstel.
I hopped on my red bike, sporting my matching red tights for the occasion.Amsterdam really is so pretty in the winter, with white skies, cloudy canals, and warm wonky houses. First stop of the day was Two For Joy, who some may argue, make the best cuppa joe in town. The interior is quirky and cute, an ideal spot for a lady date or a morning spent clicking away at your laptop. Bex and I grabbed a coffee to go, and went to claim our spot along the Amstel. We were some of the firsts to arrive, and enjoyed some quiet catching up, before our personal space was invaded by hundreds of excited, screaming kids.The magic of Christmas really does come alive through the eyes of a child, and as the tall smokestacks of Sint’s ship came into view, the kids went wild! It was a thrilling arrival – I can honestly say I’ve never seen Santa sail into town on a boat.Even after three years of living in Holland, I’m still somewhat disturbed by the notion of Zwarte Piet. I’m totally cool with Santa’s helper being black, but it’s the way he’s portrayed as being silly, the way kids paint their faces black . . . sometimes it feels more of a mockery than a tradition, and that makes me uncomfortable. I mean, check out these Zwarte Piets doing Gangnam Style!! So funny, but as an outsider, doesn’t this just seem wrong?!But of course, the star of the show was Sint! A saintly looking man wearing a tall red hat. Our American Santa Clause is actually derived from the Dutch Sint, I guess you could say they are age-old ancestors. I love that Christmas kicks off mid-November in Holland. Unlike the US, we don’t have Thanksgiving to start the holiday season, but we do have Sint with an awesomely early arrival.
After Santa cruised by, Bex and I found a big fire pit and more hot drinks to warm our hands.Hot cocoa and santa are an awesome combination!Not to mention our dreamy Dutch surroundings – this city is truly magical in the winter!!