Sinterklaas - The history of the Goedheiligman

The Sinterklaas ladder is breaking loose again in all its intensity. Many children are tethered for the tube every day and live intensely with the adventures of The Club of Sinterklaas and the latest news from the Sinterklaas news. Bart Smit and Toys' R'Us have heyday and we poor parents are crazy about our bouncing ...

Why do we celebrate Sinterklaas?

Why do we celebrate Sinterklaas? How do you survive with your young child all the hectic, what do you spend on average for your child on this holiday and what are really nice presents?

Sinterklaas celebration

In the Netherlands we have been celebrating the Sinterklaas festivity for years on 5 December. Every year it is a great experience for all children: that man with that long white beard and impressive voice, his black servants, the presents, the Sinterklaas songs, the candy, the steamer, putting your shoe ... Your baby will be too small for it to really get something out of it - you do not have to hire Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet for him.

Keep it fun for everyone

Keep it for your older child for the time being but with a few modest presents. For your toddler, Sinterklaas begins to take on meaning and the mystery surrounding this good man delivers exciting moments but also a lot of fun!

Origin: The Holy Nicholas

In Patara in the old Eastern Roman Empire - which is now Turkey - a boy named Nicolaos was born around 260 AD. This boy proved very special, his whole life was filled with all kinds of inexplicable miracles.
After the death of his wealthy parents Nicolaos inherited a wealth and he was not too childish to let others share. He eventually settled in Myra and by his aura of wonder and generosity he was appointed Bishop of Myra.

Declared as holy

He died on December 6, 342. It was not until many years after his death that he was declared saintly - Sint Nicolaas - and regarded as the patron saint of, among other things, shipping.

Origin: Germans

Before the Middle Ages lived a pagan figure, called Wodan (also called Odin). He was the supreme god of the Germans and judged the behavior - good and evil - of the people.
He was presented as an imposing man with a white beard, he wore a cloak and a cap, and he held a spear with a snake-head at the end in his hand. Thus Wodan rode the heavens on his eight-legged horse ...

Two ravens

He had two black ravens on his shoulder - his informants - and he was always accompanied by his help Eckart. To please Wodan, people offered sacrifices at the fireplace in the form of delicacies.

Sinterklaas candy

You can buy a ready-made mix in the supermarket for, for example, spice nuts and stuffed speculaas, but sipping and kneading yourself with your child is of course much more fun!

Herb nuts

Herb nuts are those hard half round marbles that taste like gingerbread ... and more! Do not confuse spice nuts with gingerbread nuts - those are those angular semi-soft chunks that taste like gingerbread. Gingerbread and sausage pancakes are models of Sinterklaas and / or Zwarte piet that you can make with glaze, smarties, mice, sprinkles, candy and other decorations.

Gingerbread mannequins

Gingerbread manicums are made from the same type of dough as spice nuts, chilli teas of the same variety as pepernoten. Room chest plate is the well-known candy that melts so deliciously on your tongue. And then of course we still have meringues and marzipan!

Our Saint

It is not difficult to understand that our current Sinterklaas originated from the mix of this ferocious Wodan and the generous Nicolaos. Our Goedheiligman is surrounded with all kinds of symbolism. He still bears the beard, the coat and the miter, he has the staff, rides his horse, arrives by steamboat, and has his servants hand out parcels to the 'poor'.

Lekkernijen by the fireplace

In exchange for his generous donations, people put goodies by the fireplace.
But what is the true idea behind the Sinterklaas celebration? Is that having-having-giving or giving-giving-giving ... The clothing of Saint Nicholas is the clothing of a bishop. Sinterklaas makes these special clothes extra special.

Red and purple

In the past the church was decorated with lots of red and purple during parties. The bishop's clothing was usually in the same colors. And since Sinterklaas loves to party, it is not surprising that red is also his favorite color! Sinterklaas comes every year the first Saturday after Sint Maarten to the Netherlands, always in a different place.

Explanation about the symbolism of Sinterklaas

As we have seen, Sinterklaas is surrounded with all kinds of symbolism:


He feels at home there. Saint Nicholas rescued seamen in distress and, in addition to being patron of schoolchildren, nubile youth, merchants and travelers, was also a patron of the sailors.


From Spain used to come a lot of luxury items and goodies (and now in December).


Borrowed from the Germanic god Wodan.


Probably a 'bastard' of a Phrygian cap (an oriental, religious head covering), worn by bishops, among others.


Symbol of the shepherd's staff and ecclesiastical power.


A corruption of 'goet-hylik man' (= 'good-marriage man'), a title that Saint deserved by taking care of the dowry of a few poor girls.

Black Pete

Formerly the opposite of St. and boeman for small children, now Sints indispensable right hand, turned black by all that crafting in chimneys (who would not be black?).


Birch branches with bamboo or a ribbon around it, symbol of fertility and also handy to clean the chimney (which in view of Piets appearance may not be the best method).


Connection between people and the 'upper world' where spirits and gods live (according to the Germans at least).

Gingerbread mannequins

Also called 'Vrijers', you got one, then you had a worshiper. Formerly depictions of saints or of the Germanic fertility goddess Freia.


Again a symbol of fertility, in the past they were mixed with coins, nowadays unfortunately with candy.


Almond bread with Indian cane sugar, used as a medicine in the Middle Ages. The wild boar was a Germanic symbol of hunting and was regularly sacrificed in ancient times. After the church banned animal sacrifices, the pig was replaced by his grandnephew: the marzipan pig.


Formerly mainly in the form of a heart. Just like the Vrijer a sign of a worshiper.

Chocolate items

One of the best-known legends about Sinterklaas is that he sneaked in at night with gold coins at night. This is to prevent a father sending his daughters into prostitution to get money for a good dowry.


Preferably unseen, as a sign of generosity and modesty. Again to be traced back to the legend of the three nubile girls.

Chocolate letters

Edible letters were used at convent schools in the Middle Ages to teach children how to write. As soon as they could write a letter well, they were allowed to eat the corresponding letter of bread as a reward. Another explanation may be that in the 19th century people covered the Sinterklaas gifts with a sheet. On top of this they placed the first letter (of bread) of the child for which the gifts were intended. Chocolate letters were introduced sometime in the 19th century. Until then, the letters were made of bread or pastry. Germanic children received a rune sign as a gift at birth, an initial for happiness. This tradition is also seen as a precursor to the chocolate letter.

Black Pete

Zwarte Piet wears the clothing of a 'page'. That used to be the help of important people. And Sinterklaas is of course an important man! Meanwhile, the clothes of the pieten look a bit different. In the past they wore shoes with shiny buckles, nowadays you see a lot of sneakers!
Some people carry a roe. Previously it was said that children got their buttocks, but actually they only clean the chimney with them, before they go through it


In our current consumer society, the Sinterklaas celebration has become one big commercial circus. The consumer is stimulated in all kinds of ways to purchase increasingly larger and more expensive gifts. Children are crazy about misleading advertising and seductive advertising brochures. This creates a murderous competition: if your neighbor shows his latest Nintendo DS you can not arrive with your new felt tips ...

How much do you spend

It is wise for parents to determine in advance how much you want to spend, both per child and per adult. Also agree with any grandmothers and grandfathers or others who want to do something.

Sinterklaas budget

The average Sinterklaas vendor last year did not spend more than 50.00 euros. About a quarter spent between 50.00 euros and 100.00 euros.
If you do not have a budget for the Sinterklaas feast, it will be difficult - you want to give your child a joke ... From January onwards, set aside a small amount each month; start collecting small purchases or offers in good time; if you are handy or creative you can make a nice present yourself.

Keep it small

For small children, they are not used to extreme donations, keep it small then the expectation next year is also less great. Speak well with others who want to do something (games room, grandmothers): keep it simple and simple.
For adults, surprises are a godsend: through your own creativity you can surprise the other person. A lively poem and your evening is a success.

Poem there

A poem is always fun ... provided they remain positive of course. Small subcutaneous pinpricks, of course, are best, but do not abuse your poem to get your gram. Are you not such a poet yourself? Then use this handy poemsgenerater!

Party room

The run up to December 5 is a tough time for your young child. Nowadays Sinterklaas is celebrated everywhere - in the games room, the day room, at the playing / sports club, at the babysitter, the work of mom and dad, at grandfather and grandmother 1, at grandfather and grandmother 2, at friends, at Aunt Pietje ... - but the question is: is this all fun? If your child is susceptible to all the hectic in this period then consciously limit the amount of 'Sinterklaas stimulus': switch off the television, do not keep advertising brochures, avoid grocery shopping, and limit the number of 'Sinterklaas'. You can safely say no to the sports club, your work and the babysitter. Ask instead if everyone wants to come and celebrate the Sinterklaas celebration at your home in one go. After all, this is in the interests of your child, and fortunately for young children, what does not know what does not matter ...


Make no mistake about the effect that this imposing Goedheiligman and his black servant have on your child. Toddlers think magically and this time is full of secrets, riddles and mysterious things: how does Saint with his horse get on the roof, what time does Zwarte Piet come to, and what kind of chimney?


When you visit Sint, or he visits you, it all becomes extra exciting. The reaction of a child is often difficult to predict. Do not try to force your child to force things, do not force him to give Black Pete a hand or sit on his lap when he does not want to. Let him see, hear, smell, taste and experience at his own pace ... Sinterklaas should above all be fun!

The Great Secret

You could say that we are adults, a bunch of big liars that turn children into a wheel ... Well, it's fun too! All those questions, all those nonsense answers, your own cleverness to keep your child one step ahead ... delicious!

Choose the right moment

Yet there comes a time when you will have to tell your older child that Sinterklaas does not exist. Choose the right time for this, try beforehand at school what the appointment is there (usually in group 5 surprises are done, sometimes in group 4 already) and tell for example in the middle of the summer. By the time Sinterklaas comes, your child is already used to the idea and initiated in the 'Club of the Great Secret'.

Entry Sinterklaas 2016

The entry this year will take place on November 18 in Dokkum. You can view the entry live via the TV, from 12:00 on NPO 3.

Video: Sinterklaas boat arrived in Breukelen, Netherlands

Leave Your Comment