Who was Saint Nicholas?
When is St. Nicholas’ day?
St. Nicholas’ Day parades
In the Netherlands, the festivities kick off with parades around the country, marking Saint Nicholas’ arrival from Spain. Called Sinterklaas [Saint Nicholas] in Dutch, nearly every town and city has an annual arrival parade, usually featuring someone dressed as Sinterklaas on a horse, boat, carriage, or even helicopter.
In the time between his arrival and St. Nicholas’ Day, Sinterklaas travels to hospitals, schools, and from home to home, leaving small gifts for well-behaved children. In exchange, children will often leave out a carrot, some hay, and a bowl of water for Sinterklaas’ horse.
A boot in front of the fireplace
St. Nicholas’ Feast Day
Gifts for unmarried women
A visit from Krampus, St. Nicholas’ cloven-footed companion
Not all is merry and bright during Saint Nicholas’ Day — and that’s all thanks to Krampus. Around the world, variations of this menacing figure accompany Saint Nicholas to punish children who misbehave. You’re most likely to bump into Krampus in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. He’s usually depicted as half-man, half-goat — a frightening creature that borrows traits from demons, beasts, and the devil.
Legend has it Krampus travels with Saint Nicholas, leaving coal for naughty children or — in some cases — kidnapping them in his sack. Another spine-chilling Krampus tradition: the Eve of Saint Nicholas’ Day is Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, in some parts of Europe. Krampus takes to the streets, visiting the homes of misbehaving children. If that doesn’t motivate you to be good this year, we don’t know what will!
There’s still time to brush up on your Dutch and celebrate Sinterklaas, or practice your German and join in on the Krampusnacht debauchery. Celebrate the season with a little language and culture learning with friends and family — the holiday fun begins with Mango!