Today was the first time I have experienced a Sinterklaas intocht (arrival) in The Netherlands. It was fantastic! The previous few years as we’ve been living in Australia, I’ve been fortunate to celebrate with the Duyfkenschool Brisbane at Redcliffe in the brilliant sunshine.
This year though, we were in 4 degrees, almost shivering in the cold by the harbour even in thick jackets, but that was all forgotten once we heard the blast of the boat’s horn! I hope you can share at least a little of the atmosphere through this video:
We live in Den Haag but have Dutch Australian friends in Maassluis and were so glad they asked us to join them. Though the intocht van Sinterklaas (arrival) is celebrated all over The Netherlands both this weekend and next, as you can see from the Sinterklaas Maassluis website, they take it very seriously there and it was a great place to be (and I’ve just disovered you can watch today’s events there on the website too!).
First our children practiced their singing (which you can see on the video above) and as our friends live near the harbour, it was then an easy walk down to the water’s edge. We stood amongst a growing crowd, spattered with cute little Zwarte Piets and Sinterklaasjes.
Everyone waited with anticipation for the Stoomboot to arrive from Spanje (for any readers who happen to be new to all of this, you can read about Sinterklaas on Wikipedia).
Soon, out of the mist, a bellowing horn sounded and we could see the boat! Sinterklaas was hard to spot but we certainly could see the Zwarte Pieten everywhere – including on the mast.
It all happened rather quickly – the boat sailed into the harbour, followed by two more cheerfully decorated boats full of Pieten and Pakjes. What I enjoyed most was the intermittent horns, it really added to the atmosphere. The cold was forgotten as children waved and sang enthusiastically (Sophia has been practicing her “Sinterklaas wave” for days!).
It was a little hard to see Sinterklaas but in the end the boat had to wait a while for the bridge to open so I managed to get up closer for a photo:
With our children so young and a large crowd, we decided not to go into the town centre but instead enjoyed morning tea with our friends, then came home to watch the Intocht van Sinterklaas show – which has been televised annually since 1952 and each year focusses on a different location – this year was Roermond in Limburg.
Love to hear about your experiences of Sinterklaas in a comment below! Renee