St Nicholas’ Eve / Sinterklaas

St. Nicholas’ Day falls on the 6th of December each year, but the holiday celebrations actually start the day before (on December 5th) on St. Nicholas’ Eve. Also known as Sinterklaas, this day isn’t a public holiday, so businesses remain open and most people have to work.

Even so, this holiday is one that captures the public’s imagination and is a day during which there are plenty of family gatherings. The celebration begins even before this day, as children start leaving shoes by the fireplace and sing songs asking for Sinterklaas to bring them gifts some three weeks before the day even arrives.

The History of St. Nicholas’ Eve (Sinterklaas)

Some historians believe that the main elements of this holiday are derived from the Germanic traditions used to celebrate the god Wodan — a Germanic god from Norse mythology.

Many of these elements were built upon during the Middle Ages when Sinterklaasfeest began to rise in popularity. This feast gave people an excuse to help the poor by placing money in their shoes, as well as drinking heavily, as public drunkenness was common with this festival.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, this day began to be restricted, particularly by the Protestants, because it was felt that too many people were engaging in excessive saint adoration.

However, the Saint Nicholas celebrations never completely ended, and the Dutch Republic eventually tolerated private celebrations of this day. During the 19th century, many St. Nicholas celebrations took on more secular trappings. It would eventually evolve to become the holiday that it is today.

Facts About Sinterklaas

For everyone interested in this holiday, we thought we’d take a few moments to talk more about it. We did a little bit of research and came up with the following fascinating facts about Sinterklaas that we feel everyone can appreciate. Let’s take a look at them before talking about how St. Nicholas’ Day is observed.

  • Sinterklaas arrives on a steamboat from Spain.
  • He rides a white horse that’s capable of traversing rooftops.
  • The night of December 5th is called “Pakjesavond,” which means “gift-giving night.”

Observing St. Nicholas’ Eve (Sinterklaas)

St. Nicholas’ Eve is primarily the main day for gift-giving during this holiday season. Children are given presents that are supposedly from Sinterklaas, and there is a whole slate of different activities planned for the day.

There’s plenty of food, and people spend the day with their families feasting and drinking. People can spread the word about this month by using the hashtag #Sinterklaas on social media as well.

Where is it celebrated?
Netherlands (Observance)
When is it?
This year (2024)
December 5 Thursday
Next year (2025)
December 5 Friday
Last year (2023)
December 5 Tuesday