Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus, Info- and Booking Center Westerkwartier
History of St Nicholas & the (Dutch) St Nicholas festival:         Dutch Version

St Nicholas Curriculum     St Nicholas Legends     St Nicholas Festival and the Dutch Sinterklaas Festival

Nicholas, the bisshop
Saint Nicholas statue in the Basilic in Bari  
Statue in the Basilic in Bari
* Patara (In that time a Greek region, part of the Byzantian Imperium, nowadays part of the present Turkije) ca. 270 post Chr. + Myra, 343 post Chr.

Sainthood: -
The date on which he was pronounced to be a Saint is not known,
but already in the 9th century was he one of the most wellknown Saints.

Other names:
San Nicola (Italy)
Saint Nicholas, (French en English),
Sankt Nikolaus, Sankt(e) Klaus en Sankt(e) Claus (Germany),
Sint Niklaas, Sinter Niklaas, Sinterklaas (Dutch and Flemish),
   (San, Saint, Sint, Sinter, en Sankt(e) may be abriefed to St. or Skt.
    Sinter is just a friendly form of Sint like Sankte is a friendly form of Sankt,
    it was (and is) used to show that we find that Saint to be a kind and friendly one
and sometimes Saint Nicholas is even named Santa Claus (And then they still mean Saint Nicholas and not the Santa Claus from the Northpole). But this happends fewer and fewer.

Rememberance: 6 december
(It is common use to take the day he died as the cellibration day for a Saint.)
A Strange thing however is, that this date was not fixed untill the 13th century.
This combined with the fact that the actual date of becoming a Saint (prenounced Sainthood) is also not known, makes it very possible that there has been a mix-up with another Nicholas.

There is not much knowhow about the live of our Nicholas. Because of that, in 1970 he even got removed from the great pantheon of Roman Saints.
It is believed that it is the Nicholas, who was born around 270 in Patara, as a son of welthy parents (Euphenius and Anna), in the region of Lycië in Asia Minor (Little Asia) - the present Turkey.
Most sertainly it is the melting together of the stories about 2 Nicholas (first) and then later added the stories of a third Nicholas. The First 2 were: a bisshop from Myra from the 4th century AC, about whom there is not much known, and a colleague with the same name from the nearby Pinara (same region), who past away in 564 AC. (This is also the conclusion of the katholic German folklore expert Karl Meisen, in his work: "Nikolauskult und Nikolausbrauch im Abendlande" from 1931. He is one of the most important writers about the Saint Nicholas festivals and rituals.) After the 13th century the stories about Nicolaas of Tollentine were added, whom is song about in the Nicholas-song "Nicholas of Tollentine".

Okay, back to the subject, Nicholas of Myra.
Born a Greek and a Byzantian Cityzen.
According the the legends, in his youth he was giving several examples of his strong believe. And Nicholas could not stand people being treated unjustfull orliving in poverty. He lost his parents on a young age. His uncle, the archbisshop of Myra, toke care of Nicholas and ordained him to be a priest. Later Nicholas is successing his uncle as bishop of Myra. The legend tells us that his appointment happend in a special way. When a new bishop had to be chosen, many people came together in Myra to pray for the right choice. The Chairman of the congracation became in his sleep a vision. A voice spoke to him and said that he had to go to the churchdoor the very next morning. The first man named Nicholas that entered the church through that door, must be chosen to be the new bishop. And so it happened.
The newe bishop became known for his help to the poor, his kindness for childeren and his protection for seaman.
In the year 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered that all the citizens of the Romans Imperium, Asia Minor dis also belong to the Roman Imperium at that time, had to honor him as a god. Christians did believe in their own God and only in Him alone, so their faith did forbid them to follow that Imperial Order. Angry about their stubbornness, Diocletian warned the Christians that they would be imprissioned. Later the Emperor acted according to that warning and many Christians, Including bishop Nicholas, were imprissioned. For more as five years was Nicholas in imprissoned in an small cell. He suffered hunger, thurst and cold, but never was he broken in his faith. In 313, when Diocletian declined and Constantine became in power, Nicholas was released from prisson, and he returned to his post as Bishop of Myra. He continued with his good deads and by the time that he did pass away (pressumably 6 december 343), he had more wisdom and more understanding as ever before. After his dead Nicholas was burried in Myra (the present Demre on the southcoast of Turkey).
In the Orthodox Catholic believe, a Saint was (and still is in present Orthodox {Russian, Greeg} and Roman-Catholic believes) someone who has lived such a holy live, that he, after his passing away and his journey to heaven, still is capable to help the people on Earth. They often become the Patron-Saint for one or more specific Groups of People - One of those groups were the childeren and many legends were produced to show his help.
Since the year 450, we see that many churches Asia Minor and Greece are named after him.
Somewhere around the year 800, hij became officially recognised as a Saint by the Eastern (Orthodox) Catholic Church.
In the time of Nicholas there were mainly Turkish and Italian christians in (and around) Myra. In later years there lived mainly Islamitic Turks. In 1087 looters did rob many treasures from the tombe with the sarcophagus with the remains of Nicholas. To prevent further desecration of the grave, Italians from the place Bari decided to bring the remains of Nicolaas to this south-Italians city. On the way to Bari, they lost nine bones, which are now used in Antalya as relics.
Somewhere around the years 1200, the French started to celebrate 'Bishop Nicholas Day' on 6 december.
At the end of the years 1400, St Nicholas was the third moost loved religic figure, after Jesus and Mary. There are more as 2000 chapels and monasteries named after him.

Attributes: Saint Nicholas is always posed as a bishop.

Patronage: Nicholas is PatronSaint of, among others, the tradesman, salesman, seaman, childeren and lovers. Next to this he is PatronSaint of Rusia, the region Lorraine/Lothringen, and several cities like for example Amsterdam. His help was mostely asked against floodings, storms on sea and against thieves.

Sint Nicholas and Spain: Mostlikely Nicholas was never in Spain and never had any doings with that land. But there are suggestionse in peoples believes. For instance, the city of Bari was a Spanish poccession for a long time (and thus is the then Holy St. Nicholas for many people al soon to be seen as an Spanish Bishop). On top of that, the merchants did bring the stories about Nicolaas from the South to North Europe. And Spain, a southern and a important kingdom, was seen as rich, exotic and mysterious.
On the Page about the Figures and Traditons we give our view on this.

St Nicholas Curriculum     St Nicholas Legends     St Nicholas Festival and the Dutch Sinterklaas Festival

Saint Nicholas legend   There are many legends know about Saint Nicholas.
The first legends about the bishop of Myra,
around whom the celibration and admiration would concentrate,
appear in Greece traditions already in the six century.
We are not name or describe all Legends here,
that would take to much space.
On the sites named here under, you can find almost all of them (In Dutch).

It is not know if they all (or some of them) are real or are made up,
there is no proof for any of them, nor against them.
Many stories about the Legends or the celebrations of Saint Nicholas
and about the festivals around that celebration are first written down after 600 past Christ
and most likely a big part of them belong to two other Bishops Nicholas, who are:
Nicholas of Pinara, who past away in 564
and Nicholas of Tollentino (Tollentijn) See below

Since the reforming of the SaintsCalendar of the Roman Catholic Church (1970) the Festivalday of Saint Nicholas is 'degraded': Since 1970 Nicholas of Myra is no official Saint anymore in the Roman Catholic Church and therefore his festivalday is not longer an obligatorial festival. Mind You: this degration only happend in the Roman Catholic Church, In other churches where he was an official Saint before that date, he is an official Saint still.
In the main time, It is a very funny Item: the only Saint, who, outside the Roman Catholic Church, is worldwide know, gets no recognision anymore by the Roman Catholic Church. But this has his good sides also. Now we can treat him as a normal saint, not a Roman one, not an only Christians one, but a Holy man (Saint and an example) for everybody.
In the Eastern Orthodox Churches there is still a special admiration for Saint Nicholas, which shows in beautifull icons and a nameless number of churches who are named after him.

Other (Saint) Nicholases:

Juat like with Nicholas of Myra, there is not much know about Nicholas, Bishop of Pinara,
about Nicholas of Tolentino the following is know:
Nicholas of Tolentino   1305 Nicholas of Tolentino

Nicholas of Tolentino oesa, Middle-Italy;
monk, priest & peoples-preacher; decised 1305.

Festival 7 juni (Holyness declaration) & 10 september.

This Nicholas was born around 1245 in the Italian place Sant'Angelo in Pontano (near Ancona). On the age of eleven he joined the augustiner-heremits in his own hometown.
He got his priest ordination from the holy Benvenuto Scotivoli (past away ca 1282; festival 22 maart).
Since then he worked unwearying as a folkspriest and confessor in the region where he was born. In 1275 he toke a defenetif residence in the city of Tolentino.
According to a lot of stories he brougth many a sinner back on the right track. No one seems able to resist his charisma and every day hunderds of people came to him to hear him speak.
Already during his live he was beliefed to be a great holy man. This beliefe became stronger due to the miracles he did.
Between 1305 and 1325 301 miracles he perforemed were official registrated.
Some of them show a great simmilairity to the miracles from his famous collage from Myra who lived in thee forth century (past away 343; festival 6 december).
Nicholas of Tolentino died in Tolentino on 10 september 1305.
Honesty persist on describing another Saint(Bisshop Nicholas who's Nameday in the official Saints calendar is now noted on 10 december.
In this case it is about a Nicholas from the 14th or 15th century. He was not a pleasant man, there are even stories that he was a murderer.
It is this Nicholas that stood model for the movie 'Sint!' But Please Note ! : This Nicholas has nothing, realy complete nothing to do with the Figur of the Saint Nicholoas who is the 'Sinterklaas'.

St Nicholas Curriculum     St Nicholas Legends     St Nicholas Festival and the Dutch Sinterklaas Festival

Saint Nicholas, the Festival...

The worship of Saint Nicholas was initially limited to the Byzantine Church, where he is still the most important Holy after Maria. The feast of Saint Nicholas, was therefore thus more Orthodox than Roman, because the separation between orthodox (Greek and Russian) and Roman (Rome) was not until 1054.
The celebration was in the beginning also not yet on a fixed day but was combined with an adventmis, this could be the beginning of December, but also just before Christmas. Within the Greek and Byzantine culture, there is a same kind of feast around Basil of Caesarea. Basil's feast day is on 1 January, and is used as a day of giving (exchange) gifts in Greece.
The feast of Saint Nicholas began with a procession with the statue of Saint Nicholas, followed by a mass, after which there was time for the annual fair. An event with stalls wher you could buy almost everything, and marquees with artists who did perform, like minstrels, puppeteers, acrobats, magicians and even more, and there were also skill contests such as price shooting with bow and arrow, and many games for children.
And, of course, there were many local or elsewise wellknow customs added to the feast. That is why there came also Germanic/scandinavian customs, because the cultures around the Mediterranean were strongly influenced by the Vikings who have had great influence there for many years.
However, in the first centuries after Christ, there was still no Christmas celebration around the Solstice (longest night), but was often the Juul Festival celebrated like that still exists in Scandinavia.
Later it became more and more a Roman Catholic feast with a mixture of Germanic, early Churchical (Roman and Orthodox) customs. Through this kind of special trade fairs (Fair connected with a church-mass) these fairs with attractionds for kids did get their Dutchname (Ker(k)mis =Chur(ch)mass), just like the Christmas feast is called after the mass of Christ's birth (Christ's mass).
In the seventh and eighth century the cult of Saint Nicholas did spread over Italy and brought back home by the Normans it reached also the Middle, the West and the North of Europe.
In the years 1200 the people in France began under the influence of the Roman Church, to celebrate the Bishop Nicholas Day on december 6, the presumably death anniversary of Nicholas of Myra. Since the 13th century that day falls in England and France, on the same day as the feast of the Holy Innocents (which before that was celebrated on 28 December). The origin of the children's feast is located in medieval French monastery schools, where on Innocents day (28 december) a children's Bishop was chosen, who performed a parody of a mass and who did interview his fellow students about their behavior: who was been nicet got goodies, who was been naughty the rod.
According to Karl Mack (see source refering) Nicholas made here his first appearance childrens Saint and did the feast at that date gradually got its present customs. The handing out gifts what happend, did remember on the dowry for the three virgins; the shoes in which they were put in did remember on the grain boats with which Nicholas saved the people of Myra; the chimney pointed to the window whereby that dowry was thrown inward.
Also in Netherlands the anniversary of the Holy Saint was already known. The earliest Dutch reference to his feast, however, only applies to school children. The historian G.D.J. Dish quotes a city account from Dordrecht by 1360, which shows that school children were free from school on 'Nyclaesdagh' (Nicholasday) and received money to make fun. Just as in France, they chose one of their own as 'Bishop', Under the Vespers he got a miter on his head and a crosier pressed in his hand, and then the children did go around in the city and they asked for a little somethings. Quite a portion of the gifts they spent on delicious things such as almond bread.
Also putting shoes was known early on. The children of the poor did may set their shoe (clog) in the church. In 1427 in the St. Nicholas Church in Utrecht on Saintnicholas Eve a few shoes recieved some money, that 'for God's sake' was donated to the poor. Gradually the feast also reached the families. It is known that children did put their shoe already in the 15th century. First time this happened was in the churches and the proceeds were for the poor, but later, in the 16th century, children maight put a shoe or clog also at home or at 'godmother's' home, to find the next morning, delicacies like nuts, apples and sweets and sometimes also presents in them, purchased by the parents.
Saint Nicholas feast by Jan SteenAmong others it can be seen on paintings by Jan Steen that they did get 'speculaas', peppernuts, fondantplate, Marzipan, chocolate characters and 'taaipoppen'. These are therefore centuries old products. We try to give a sort impression of some of the above items.
Speculaas (pronounced 'Specu' from speculate and 'las' from Lassie) or better speculaaspop (Speculas doll) is simmilair to a gingerbread cookie or gingerbreadman, but it is made from other ingrediënts and has another taste.
Pepernuts (pepernoten en kruidnoten) is simmilair to a gingernuts, but it is made from other ingrediënts and has another taste. Since 1940's there are hardly pepernust used anymore, nowadays it is almost always 'kruidnoten' (Spicenuts).
Taai-taai or better taai(taai)poppen is simmilair to speculaa doll, but it is made with some other ingrediënts and has another taste. Not quite the same as Speculaas !!!
Speculaas and kruidnoten are made with a set of Speculaas spices (predominantly cinnamon) that are used in the making of certain types of shortbread cookies. The list of Speculaas spices and recepies for Speculaas, Taai-taai and Kruidnoten are on the page with Figures and Customs. You can see there that the name 'Cinnamon cookie' for 'Speculaas' can be used, but does not fit the bill 100%.

Next to the shoe setting was Saint Nicholas a feast for adolescents and adults. In many cities existed a Nicholas Guild, whicht on that day held a procession and organised a feast. Sailors kept a razzle-dazzle. On Saint Nicholas fairs the young male and female could buy speculaaspoppen, called suitors and spinsters. By giving eachother these dolls, sugar hearts were also good, they could gauge how the preferences were.
In the 1500s (the Reformation) this celebration came under fire. Protestants regarded it as a "popish" and pagan festival, also because it in major cities caused for riots and public intoxication.
It was felt that giving gifts had to be associated with the Christmas Child. After all, in a religion in which only God is doing well, gifts can come only from him. Due to the criticism the party did disappeared from the scene in many countries. So not in Netherlands, where Saint Nicholas became increasingly popular.
But in countries like Germany, France and England the Sinterklaas celebration did move to Christmas. In those countries the people stopped with the worship of St Nicholas and they gave the preference to another Gifts bringing figure, Father Christmas/Pere Noel/Der Weihnachtsman, also announcing through Evergreen plants that the winter would go over. The German Weihnachtsmann, the French Pere Noel, the English Father Christmas and later the American Santa Claus are so basically a mix of the Yule-man and a shifted-in-time Saint Nicholas. This applies almost literally for the last, because his name is a direct translation of the Dutch 'Sankte Claes', which at the time, presumably by Dutch people has been introduced in New Amsterdam, now New York. (See also the history of the song 'Sankte Claes').
In addition there were also Protestants, especially in Germany, that did still give candy and gifts with Christmas, but then said it was brought by the Christmas Child. The latter can also have an older origin as the shift of the Sinterklaas celebration to Christmas. It could refer to the gifts that the wise men from the East brought to the Christmas Child, and that symbolicly were laid in a manger by the Church, and later were given to the children of poor people. They then were told their presents came from the Christmas Child. The name "ChristKind" (Christmas Child) or "ChristKindl" (small Christmas baby), what later in America became Chris Kringle, is next to Santa Claus the most used name for Santa Claus.
The growth of Santa Claus from Semi-St Nicholas to a stand-alone existing figure is gradually formed in North America (USA and Canada), and after the 2nd World War slowly all over the world.
And still you can in parts of Europe with Christmas get a present from St. Nicholas dressed as a bishop. See e.g. the Christmas stamp (Weihnachten 1984) with St. Nikolaus there on.
but it can also happen that you, e.g. in Germany, with 6 december do get visited by St. Nikolaus in Santa Claus outfit.
German poststamp Weihnachten

In the archive of Sinterklaas and Santa Claus J.W. King we found another important entry, what most other 'Sinterklaas' biographers never mentioned. There was still something else important happened by that Reformation. Saint Nicholas was suddenly no longer a Holy Saint who occasionally descended from heaven to do miracles and gifts. But he had become a more Earthbound Holy Saint, who still had to come from somewhere. On the page with the customs of the Dutch Sinterklaas feast, we will come back on this in the part about Spain.

Over the centuries St. Nicholas his popularity grew again and many people in Europe came up with new stories about St. Nicholas and his concern for children. In Netherlands the feast did change, due to the prohibition to celebrate it, from a folk festival (on the streets) into a celebrated feast indoors. Saint Nicholas processions and markets were no longer allowed to be held. For the general public that was no point of concern, because gradually festivities as markets and bal became less populars. But the celebration in private in the houses could not be controlled and therefore not be stopped.
In the meantime, Saint Nicholas was still not that Sint as we know him now. The people celebrated his birthday without him. W.J. Dekker reports that in the mid eighteenth century the habit had arisen that older children, who invariably found salt in their shoe, would get gifts also. This giving salt was then not the punishment for naughty children, but a confirmation of the fact that those children were now old enough to earn the salt in their pap themselves. They had reached the age where they had to go to work and did lose many privileges of the children. To his came that in the first half of the nineteenth century men started to buy niceties for their wives and that in the second half of that century that women began doing that also for their husbands. Fake-presents and poems in which they told eachother on a strange but acceptable the truth (as was done in France for years), joined this tradition. The Saint Nicholas Feast did thereby become 'a feast of expectations', as expressed in the song 'See the moon shines through the trees' from 1843 by Jan Pieter Heije ('Our heart beats with anticipation, who gets the rod, who the gard'). Other songs that were writen at that time, interpret this feeling also: 'Hear who is knocking there children' and 'Hear the wind blowing through the trees'.
The difficulty was that people still didn't have a scenario for a happy domestic feast. For most families Saint Nicholas was still riding through the night, while on the evening before (5 december!) the tension was increased by someone banging on doors and throwing peppernuts inside. After which the children than on the morning of the 6th December did find their gifts in their shoes/boots/nuggets found. And possibly even in their sock when the children were still too small for footwear or if they were too poor to have children's footwear.

At the end of the 19th century it became a more general feast and there were more non-ecclesiastical cutoms added. This is partly due to the influence of bv, the Dutch booklet "St. Nicholas and his servant" which the Amsterdam teacher Jan Schenkman in 1850 presented. Many of the current design of the Saint-Nicholas feast can be traced back to that Saint Nicholas booklet of Jan Schenkman. It holds, for example, the text of the song 'See yonder comes the steamer'. Making the Saint no longer, as in very old songs, riding on his horse from Somewhere to here, but from then on made him coming from Spain with the steamer. Not only the steamer, which was a new invention at that time, is noteworthy, also that 'Spain' as homeland of the Saint is called. This can be explained by the fact that South-Italy, in which Bari lays were the Saint Nicholas Basilica is, in the seventeenth century under the Spanish Crown did fell, so that this area for the simple people could pass for Spain. The relationship with Spain was already brought up in the song 'Sinterklaas, pull your best tabard on, travel to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to Spain, etc,' that appeared in print as early as 1810 (even so in America!).
In the booklet there is also for the first time, real servant mentioned.
Before the Booklet there was already a helper called Nicodemus, but that was a friend of Nicholas who guided him sometimes on his nightly tours.Between 1600 and 1850 was Saint Nicholas sometimes accompagnied by some dark Figurs like Krampus or Ruprecht (like he still is in German-speaking countries) and also sometimes by a servant/friend named Nicodemus, who often was a white person and sometimes dark person and most of the time was a nobel man. This Nicodemua was therefore (most of the tme a white man) not a reference to the dark side of the Saint, but nothing more as a reference to the first Nicodemus. (see the page about Figures and Customs).
Please note: At the 'Innocent Children' Feast the other kids also acted like friends and helpers of the children's Bishop, but also there only as temporary helpers. And it may well be that those children were also what dressing up (to create poormans-children images) and that they camouflaged themselves (something children still love to do as they play, that makes the play more real) and that camouflage can therefore most likely been with mud or chimney soot. Both give a dark color. But they were still no stady servants who came from Spain with Saint and who went back with him again.
By the way, in the very first edition (test edition? before 1850?) of the booklet that servant was a mature white man (just like Nicodemus), his name was also still no Peterman or Pete, and sure not Back Pete, but just John (Jan) the servant. It was not until one of the following editions (also the official 1e edition 1850 !) of Schenkmans booklet that the servant was imaged along the lines of a luxury Moorish footboy, such as already in the sixteenth century are figured on statie portraits of Regents. He was also no longer Jan the servant, but a nameless servant. It is important to note that this boy had nothing frightening, but just was a kid with whom other kids could identify with. Also important to note is that only the very rich or important people did have a moorish servant or footboy, so having a moorish servant did add to the importance of the Saint. And also very important to note is that this Moorish servants were no black slaves, but payed servants from kaukasian origin. (Mind: All the socalled white people are from kaukasian origin).It was only much later that the servant became named blak Piet (1891) and it wa much more later the he became a servant with a negroïde outlook. The name Black Pete related to Saint Nicholas is according to the Dutch specialist Frits Bala first reported already in a picture book from 1868, but became first popular in the twentieth century. In his 'Sain Nicholas and Santa Claus archive' J.W. Koning suggests that the origin of the name Black Pete (Zwarte Piet) is probably to explain due to the fact that the servant of Saint Nicholas had to be able to do absolutely anything. In shipping (and thus also on board a steamer) such a master of all trades (allrounder) was called a 'duvelstoejager' (devilsdriver) or a Peterman. A term which in the big harbor-cities was a common know name. So that notion would an Amsterdam printer and an Amsterdam teacher also certainly have. The allround servant was thus Sint Nicholas his Peterman (a name you still often hear). With Moorish appearance (and soot camouflaged) it was thus a 'black' Peterman, for a youthful boy-servant the piece of 'man' could be left away, and see there, Black Pete was born. Schenkman's (black) servant remains the first servant of Saint Nicholas ever depicted.
And in relation to that booklet J.W. Koningx also points to an often by others overlooked important point.
Cross against the prevailing Protestant opinion in, Schenkman ventured to have a form of procession, namely the Grand Arrival of the steamer. Where in live it was very rare that there was an entry held and if held than only one on a very small scale. In those cases the Saint did come somewhere, often on a horse (mostly still no white one), drove to a market or public place (Tavern, Town Hall, etc.), meanwhile throwing some sweets, and then he disappeared again. Sometimes at the end of his ride (Market, Town Hall) he was welcomed by an important citizen or by the Mayor. But the end was always (like now), that the Saint was going somewhere or went somewhere, where he could disappear unseen. And this kind of small processions/parades had to endure a lot of comments and complaints. And then comes Schenkman with his description of a really on big scale organised arrival of the steamer. That set thinking about a procession in motion again, but then in the form of an entry and parade with a Saint performer and not with a Saint statue or image.

Starting from the end of the 19th century the Saint-Nicholas feast got a pedagogical touch: who is nice getting goodies, whom is naughty is getting the rod. Also adults now gave each other presents.
Until World War II it remained still a feast for in the homes and with the family. If there was a sporadic arival/parade the Saint came often alone and if a Pete did came along, than this was usually only 1 Pete. Saint Nicholas did not yet come with a (steam) boat, but in a coach or train or on exception on a horse.
After the liberation, there were more the Arrivals/Parades organised and they were also set up on a much larger scale (under the influence of Canadian liberators) and there were also more Petes within the parades. Those many Arrivals/Parades and many Petes in 1945 and 1946 were also needed to be able to hand out food and other necessities donated by the RedCross.
Those many Petes were partly white Pieten (Dutch People and Candians) with some dark camouflage, but mostly that were Negro Petes because the Negro liberatores wanted to play the Petes. That's the reason why there were more then 1 Pete pro parade. And then there were also white Petes, but not with a Moorish appearance but with a Negro appearance disguised on the way as the Americans knew of their blackface singers, white singers who blackened their faces to sing Negro music for a white public. This was done so those soldier-Petes would all look the same (white soldiers and negroïde soldiers). Also the language that the Petes spoke was a kind of Dutch but then with coal English of American slaves implementations, simply because the liberators wanted to hide their bad Dutch. Also here the white dutch Black Petes did imitate this. A form of publicworks (Black skin, wide thick lips, large eyes, talking a faulty dutch) persisted also the years there after, first still as rememberence and gratitude to the liberators, wich was a nice thing to do at the time. But unfortunately it did persisted until the 1980s, when the 'war-children were already parents themselves and the then current children did not have that rememberence themselfs. By that time it had lost his use and should better have return to the white dark-camouflaged Petes recarding the racial issues in other countries. Mind you the Netherlands were complimented on the way they did fully integrate Black people and treated them just as the white people. In that time many countries (esspecialy the USA) did name the appearanceses of the Black Petes as an outstanding example of that! Please Note! : From pictures, foto's or movie-footage from that period, some people did get the impression that there were also a lot of semi-white Petes on horses in those Parades. Well that is a mistake! Those are the socalled Spanish nobelmen who did assist Saint Nicholas. As Nobelmen they did ride horses ofcourse.
A funny annekdote from "The Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus Archife" by J.W. Koning does give a clear inside in what was what and why it was so/there. In this annekdote J.W. Koning dicribes a Saint Nicholas Parade he dis vistid in the early 50-er years (1954?).
"We (as a Familie including the normaly 'to young children') did viste the Saint-parade in which Saint Nicholas for the first time in groningen would arrive by steamer and then would proceed with a big parade. In previous years the Saint would arrive by traibn at the Central Station and then he (and a handful of Petes) would make a roundtour in a luxereus coach. But his year he would ride on his white horse accompagnied by lost a Petes and lost of vehicles loaded with Presents and other stuff. First came semi-white men on horses, the socalled Spanish Nobelmen, then came a Canadian pipersband. Then cam SaintNicholas on his white horse and with him came a lot of Petes. Some did wear the welknowen Pete-kostums, the had camouflaged faces, others did wear a combination between a soldiers-uniform and a Petecostum. they were eigther Negroïde or had a made-up negro:ide face. One of them did wear a kilt and he did asked me (in semie English!) if I had been a goed boy. Ten folled the miltairy musickapel of the Princes Irene Brigadewith their 'Bearhats' and the came a lot of (mostly militairy) vehicles." It is a very clear example of how the Parades were upscaled under the influences of the Canadians, and how thelooks of the Petes were influences also by the Canadians. And! that this was done for pure fun by Negroïde persons them selves! Without any meaning of promoting racial thoughts.
BE AWARE !: IT WAS AROUND THIS TIME THAT THE NAME SINT NICOLAAS DID CHANGE INTO THE NAME SINTERKLAAS. Shortly after the 2cnd worldwar and even during the early 50-tier years is was considered to be not wel manoured (and even rude!) to call Saint Nicholas Sinterklaas, in some family's chlderen got disciplened if they did say Sinterklaas andon some schools those children even got punnishments fot that. The name-change from Saint Nicholas into Sinterklaas and thereby the all around acceptence of the name Sinterklaas was happening between the late 30 and medium 50 years. Allmost 200 years after the first documented name of Saint a Claus. QUOTE: Did you know that the first recorded mention of Santa Claus in the United States was in 1773? The New York Press reported a story about a "St. A Claus." (Which is clearly the name Saint A Claus. pronounced as Santa Claus) In my opinion a clear proof that the name Santa Claus did not decended from Sinterklaas but most likely from Sankte Claus (the old Dutch and German names for Saint Nicholas) And that some of the origens of Santa Claus therefore can differ from ose of Sinterklaas and even of hose from Saint Nicholas!.

And so the Saint-Nicholas feast did partly come on the street. There were still the homely family evenings and/or mornings, but The Arrivals and Parade became a regular thing each year. Next to the Local Arrivals and Parades there even came a National Arrival and Parade each year, which is the situation still today.
Fortunately nowadays organistions choose more and more for the old Moorish appearance (not black but Brown, lips red but not fat and showing ordinary eyes), and do the Petes also speak just normal Dutch (with sometimes a Spanish accent or a funny fixed slip of the tongue).

Because the Feast was now celebrated massively, and people could spend more money on the Festival (and gifts) this created a new problem. Parents wanted to celebrate the Festival together with their children and kids wanted often do not go to school the morning of the 6th december (stress or sleeping badly because the new toys tempting very much). And the giving of the gifts moved to the evening of the 5th December. Concequently 'pakjesavond' Saint Nicholas eve was born, where the gifts in a basket or bag were put for the front door by a hasty Pete, who only had time to ring the doorbell a few times or to bang on the door.
Also the City Council, the retailers and the media noticed that if you gave much attention to Sinterklaas and his feast, you would realise much goodwill among the population, and by their care (they still do organise the local parades) and later those of the TV, the feast grew in the Netherlands, and in a part of Belgium, into a national festival.
Whereby the Arrival was gradually moved forward, first because the Saint could not longer come just on 6 december, when he already brought all the presents on 5 December. But in order to be able to hold a large arrival and parade, most people had to be free also. And thus was Saturday afternoon the most favourable time. So the first period it was held on the last Saturday for 5 dec, but under pressure from the shopkeepers (longer time to sell gifts and candy etc.), it was now and then pushed forward to an earlier Saturday forward, until the National Arrival was fixed on the first Saturday after St Martin (St Martin is on 11 november). With the official National Arrival there came also an official National Saint Nicholas.
Well is there by various TV programs still a leading up to that Arrival, so that the total time nowadays is about 4 weeks leading up to Saint Nicholas Eve (pakjesavond). During that time the shopwindows are decorated with Saint Nicholas items, special Saint Nicholas toys Magazine from larger shopping Malls are available and the children may occasionally (often on the night of the Arrival and on the Saturday evenings until St Nicholas Eve) already put their shoe for some candy. And there are even between the National Arrival and St Nicholas Eve on the Saturdays smaller arrivals and parades in most places and towns in the Netherlands.
Yet not all Dutch municipalities orplaces are visited bij Saint Nicholas. So celebrates the Frisian Grou on 21 February Saint Peter.

On the site from "de vrienden van Sint Nicolaas" and the site from Jef de Jager you can read more about these developments:
These site are in dutch language.
The feast is also not unknown in other countries, there it is sometimes celebrated for centuries already (in Austria since the 13 century, see stamp),
but often in a different manors.
poststamp Austria

Santa in cloackIn Germany are all kinds of variations possible. Here Saint Nikolaus can come dressed as a Bishop on 6 december (is usually preferred by church people), but also with Christmas. But ' der Nikolaus ' can also come in Santa Claus costume and also that can be both on 6 december as with Christmas. Often this Santa Claus than does come in a 'modern' Santa Claus outfit, but sometimes also in the old-fashioned Outfit (type bosbewoner) that we know from old Christmas cards and there is sometimes also the servant Krampus. The German Bremen also celebrates Saint Nicholas on december 6, but there is no Black Pete present. Also in German areas next to the Netherlands borders, Sankt Nikolaus is celebrated. Santa from the Forrests

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland Sankt Nikolaus, for example,is riding on a donkey.

In Belgium is this not celebrated on 5 december, but on 6 december and the feast has a more religic meaning than in the Netherlands. There are also no poems and surprises. Children get only small toys. Larger gifts they get at Christmas.

In Eastern Europe St. Nicholas is celebrated on december 5. Children shine 1 of their shoes on and put it in the windowsill of their bedroom. They let the window open to accommodate Sinterklaas. Each child gets two dolls: a little devil because sometimes they are naughty and a St. Nicholasdoll because they are often nice too.

In the 'mother country' of 'Sinterklaas' a similar children's feast is celebrated with three kings (los tres reyes magos). The children get presents if they are nice and coal if they are naughty.

Other 'Klazen' (Nicolaus figures) and Servants:
In some countries, it seems like the Saint next to themselves also very close family members to work.
In Flanders they celebrate Sintegreef with Halfvasten (in March). The night before the feast day of de Greef (= count) of Halfvasten, the children place a basket by the chimney. The next day the basket is filled with chocolate and a Palm Sunday little cock.
In the German East Frisia there comes Sunnerklas and servant Ruprecht.
Also in the Netherlands, and particulary on the wadden Islands are 'Sunderklazen': noisy young men, unrecognizable disguised and with twisted votes. They wander through the neighborhood, eating and drinking, chasing small children into the houses and capturing young girls.
In Austria and Rome terrifying black servants do appear. In Austria there appears instead of San Nikola sometimes also Samiklaus with a creepy servant Krampus, dressed in a fur coat and with a Devils mask with a long red tongue. Krampus has a wicker basket with him where he used to put the naughty kids in, now the basket jsut filled with candy.
In Rome Krampus comer without the Saint.

Source Refering:
If you borrow or copy knowhow/info from other sources, for example for a project, lecture or a scription,
then it show good manors to refer to those sources.
Although we would be very pleased if you do refer to us, we do not mind much if you forget te refer to our site,
But in that case at least we expect you, when using info from our site, to refer to our sources.
(This for so far as they have to do with borrowed/copied part.)

Karl Meisen : 'Nikolauskult und Nikolausbrauch im Abendlande' 1931 ,
The Brittish St. Nicholas Center: ,
The Dutch EnSintClopedie on the Sintforum ,
Jef de Jager: ,
The Friends of Sint Nicolaas: ,

and last but not least the 'Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus Archive - Sinterklaas en Kerstman archief' from J.W. Koning
which brought us so many special facts
and did lead us so very often back to the right direction were other sources did go astray.

If you borrow or copy knowhow/info from other sources, for example for a non commercial project, lecture or a scription,
then it show good manors to refer to those sources.
And we also expect you, when using info from our site, to refer to our sources.
(This for so far as they have to do with borrowed/copied part of our site.)
For commercial projects you must have a written permission from us and above that a written permission from our sources as far as the have a right on the info on our site.


The website is an initiative from private persons. The object with this site is to offer non commercial information about several aspects about the Histories of St Nicholas and Santa Claus and the believes and festivals around them and the customs belonging to those festivals. So parents and childeren will find it easier to keep the stories alive.

Disclaimer about the info:
This website is only ment to give parents and childeren correct informations about Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. The informations on this site are put together most carefully. But it is possible still that some of our information is; -not complete, not according to present (or newer) info, or could be explained in diverent ways, or even seems to hold uncorrect facts. We take no responcebility for the Juristic correctness of the info we have presented here, nor fot the effects of the here presented info and products, and also not for eventual demage (direct or indirect) which did happendgeleden as a result from using our informations. Using our informations is complete for the risk of the user.

Disclaimer about the links:
On this site are several links to other Saint and Santa related websites. There are soly there to inform our users. We have no influence and co contol on these sites and their contents and therefore we taken no responcability for eventual damage, direct or indirect, which happend by using the info's, products or services on these sites.

To the Start of the page

Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus, Info- and Booking Center Westerkwartier