In this Caribbean celebration with origins in the Netherlands, the Dutch Sinterklaas sails into the Willemstad harbor in mid-November. He comes from Spain with his white horse and an entourage of Zwarte and Gekleurde Piet helpers. Families gather in a festive spirit to greet their arrival. A parade follows with the good saint and his helpers accompanied by drums and trumpets on their way to the Otrobanda area. Music and dance are an important part of the celebration. The Piets also throw pepernoten to the children.
Childrens’ party activities follow in the Brionplein.
The Stichting Voor Onze Kinderen (For Our Children Foundation) that organizes the celebration has been encouraging the number of yellow, red, purple and green helper Piets to increase.
In the following weeks Sinterklaas is seen throughout the island in shopping centers and resorts. He is busy talking with children and adults while distributing treats. Tourist destinations often have special events, encouraging tourists to participate. Children put their shoes by the fireplace or front door each night, hoping for Sinterklaas to drop candy and small toys down the chimney as he flies about each night.
On St. Nicholas Eve, 5 December, children put a bucket of water and a shoe filled with hay or a carrot outside for the saint’s big white horse. If they have been good, the shoes will be filled with gifts by morning. If they haven’t been good, Zwarte Piet just might pop them into a large sack and carry them back to Spain. During the evening gifts are exchanged in the Dutch way by wrapping them in elaborate disguises and presented with a humorous poem about the recipient. Or, if not in the evening of the 5th, gifts are received in the morning of the 6th.
These Sinterklaas celebrations take place in schools, shopping malls, and at home with families.