Sinterklaas visited us
The Saturday before last, Sinterklaas visited us! He was here last year, as well, but I was in Germany and missed the whole thing. So this was all new for me, and I would have to say another "incredible" Dutch tradition to experience...
The tradition of St. Nicholas (our Santa Claus) came to North America via Netherlands Protestant Settlers in New Amsterdam, now New York. It all started back in the 4th Century when a Bishop in Turkey named St. Nicholas became widely known for his good deed with poor children in Europe. His feast day became known as the Celebration of "Sinterklaas" and was held on December 6. St. Nicholas is also known as the patron saint of Amsterdam.
I'll let you read more about Sinterklaas on your own, if you want. All I want to add is that Sinterklaas is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful outfits. These helpers are called Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) in Dutch, and there is nothing like them. According to tradition, Sinterklaas is dressed like a Catholic bishop and rides a big, white horse. After his boat motored into town via the canals and docked at our Waagplein (town square), he rode through the streets on his horse, accompanied by a processsion of jolly Zwarte Pieten and musicians.
This was an all-day event, WebRegio.tv video Intocht Sinterklaas Alkmaar.
Well, it's snowing again today -- unbelievable!