Sinterklaas Comes to Amsterdam

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.

IMG_5741I hopped on my red bike, sporting my matching red tights for the occasion.IMG_5734Amsterdam really is so pretty in the winter, with white skies, cloudy canals, and warm wonky houses. IMG_5622First stop of the day was Two For Joy, who some may argue, make the best cuppa joe in town. IMG_5618The 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.IMG_5624 IMG_5629We 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.IMG_5645The 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.IMG_5684IMG_5705Even 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. IMG_5662I mean, check out these Zwarte Piets doing Gangnam Style!! So funny, but as an outsider, doesn’t this just seem wrong?!

IMG_5690But 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. IMG_5697I 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.IMG_5723IMG_5725Hot cocoa and santa are an awesome combination!IMG_5726Not to mention our dreamy Dutch surroundings – this city is truly magical in the winter!!

21 Replies to “Sinterklaas Comes to Amsterdam”

  1. The canal must be very difficult to navigate with so many craft at once, then add the larger craft. Incursions must be many? Great photos, I would like to see this in person. :)


  2. Sinterklaas made his way into New York through Dutch settlers. Then he became a subject of one of Washington Irving’s stories, involving Dutch customs. The coup de grace was Greek professor, Clement Moore’s verse, The Night Before Christmas.


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