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Saint Nicolas


Sint Nicolaas


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Saint Nicolas

Sinter Klaas



Sinter Klaas was originally a kind-hearted man

who became Archbishop of Myra

which is located in the area that is now called Turkey.

He was born in Petara around 280AD

and spoke Greek.

Nowadays this is a part of Turkey.

Saint Nicholas was born into a wealthy family

and brought up as a devout Christian.


He was an astonishing child

who stood up in his crib a few minutes after he was born.

and when his parents died of an epidemic,

he decided to give his wealth

to the poor and he became a priest.


Sailors called upon him to save them from severe storms at sea.

He was a man who performed miracles.

Some of the miracles were for sailors

and some were for children.


He also was known to bring people back from the dead.

 Many children died young at that time and

St. Nicolas as he was called,

gave them baths and proper food.


He also gave parents the money by

dropping small bags of coins through the window,

to pay for their daughters dowries so that they could marry

instead of being sold into prostitution.


It is believed that once the bag of coins fell into a stocking

which was hanging by the fire to dry.


It was not until the year of his death

that it was discovered who

the mysterious and generous benefactor was.

As a bishop he wore red robes and had a long white beard.


He became known as the “Bishop of Miracles”.


By the year 800AD he was declared

a Saint by the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church.

He also became the patron saint of

children, sailors, merchants,

of Russia and of Greece.



The Dutch call him Sinter Klaas.

“Sinter” means saint and “Klaas” is short for Nicolas.

So every year there is an official welcoming

of Sinter Klaas into the Netherlands and Belguim.


He arrives by steam boat, you know, with his trusty helpers and

his magical white horse which he rides over the roofs

 in order to give obedient children

gifts of oranges and small treats when they are asleep.


He has a red book with the names of all of the children

 and in it is written whether the children were well behaved or not.

So the children are very careful to be good

so that they can receive these well appreciated gifts.

The children must leave out some straw

for the magical white horse who was called  Schimmel. 

His helpers are dressed like Moors

and are called “Zwarte Piet”

which means Black Peter.


They do funny things to make children laugh.

Each gift from Sinter Klaas is accompanied

by a funny poem which can sometimes include

 some embarrassing remembrances of the recipient.



There are many churches in the Netherlands

that bear the name of St. Nicolas.


Amsterdam decreed St. Nicolas to be their patron saint.


The city of Sint Niklaas in Belgium

is named after him.


Three quarters of his skeleton is venerated in

Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy.



St. Nicolas died on December 6th, 342 AD.

This day is used to celebrate his memory and

his good deeds especially in Belgium.

The Dutch in The Netherlands

celebrate this on the eve of his death.


Sint Nicolaas statue

in the Saint Nicolas church in Volendam


Children leave their shoes

outside their bedroom door or

near the fire in the hope

that they will be filled with nice gifts.


The early Dutch settlers

in the new world took this story of St. Nicolas

with them to New Amsterdam.


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Updated July 27, 2011

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