More Questions About Sinterklaas

Questions About Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas has arrived in Holland again to give out gifts to all the little girls and boys who have been good this year. When talking about Sinterklaas it is very important to understand that he should not be mistaken with Santa Claus (or visa versa). As every Dutch person will inform you they might both be old men with white beards who dress in red and like to give out presents to good children in December but they are nothing alike… not in the slightest.

For example; Sinterklaas lives in the much warmer climate of Spain, arrives in Holland by steam boat during November, has helpers called Zwarte Pieten (Al Jolson look-a-likes), rides a white horse called Amerigo, and on December 5th he leaves presents in the shoes of good children but drags bad children back to Spain in a sack (you can find my more in depth guide here: Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet).

Over the years I have become very familiar with the Sinterklaas tradition. However, there are still a few things I do not quite understand about it. For example:

1) If Sinterklaas spends 11 months of the year in Spain why doesn’t he have more of a tan?

2) Did Sinterklaas set up his toy purchasing and exporting business in Spain because the Peseta to Guilder exchange rate allowed him to save money? If so; how has the switch to the Euro affected him financially (especially in this financial crisis)?

3) Where does he get the money to sustain a workforce of Zwarte Pieten and buy so many toys which he gives away for free? Is Sinterklaas an eccentric billionaire? How long will the money last?

4) If he is bringing pleasure to all the girls and boys by giving them gifts from Spain is his trip considered business or pleasure and does this mean he can or can’t reclaim any expenses incurred during his travels when doing his taxes?

5) Has Sinterklaas ever considered setting up a cultural exchange program with Santa Claus so that he could spend a year working with elves while all the Zwarte Pieten went to the North Pole? Would elves be able to cope with the hot Spanish sun with their extremely pale skin?

6) Who would win in a race; Sinterklaas with his horse Amerigo or Santa Claus with his twelve reindeer?

7) Why is it that the possible undertones of racism in regard to the Zwarte Pieten become a hot topic every year but no one ever complains about the obvious racism towards elves during Christmas? After all, we never see how Father Christmas treats them.

8) What happens to all the naughty children who are taken back to Spain? Are there just random Dutch children walking around the streets of Spain? Is this why Sinterklaas is not as stricked as he used to be in previous years? Did the Spanish government complain and tell him to knock it off?

9) Can Sinterklaas speak Spanish or does he have to get by with hand gestures and talking very loudly? Do the people of Spain find him odd?

These are the questions that keep me awake at night.


Looking for more? Read my ultimate guide on this Dutch tradition: Sinterklaas vs. Santa – Eight Humorous Differences

15 responses to “More Questions About Sinterklaas”

  1. Alison says:

    We went to see his arrival here in Utrecht this afternoon and after having read David Sedaris’ take on the story of Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten, we were wondering if the recession and unemployment, especially in Spain, would result in fewer Zwarte Pieten. Not at all, as it turns out. Perhaps he got some sort of cash infusion to hire on extra Zwarte Pieten this year. There were boatloads of them! Although there was perhaps a bit of racial profiling going on when two of them in a boat were approached by one of the police boats. ;)

  2. Wendi says:

    Haha! Hope you get some sleep soon.

  3. VallyP says:

    These questions keep you awake at night do they Stu? You should get out more…..(said while nodding in concerned fashion)

    Still, I like the exchane idea. Could broaden their horizons ;-)

  4. zed says:

    Sinterklaas arrives on a donkey here – that explains a lot. But seeing as Belgium and Holland are now out of the recession (ho hum – when will jobs start appearing again?) that should answer N° 2.

    You should sleep better tonight for that.

  5. Invader Stu says:

    Alison – We were watching it on TV at home. It looked great. I thought the boat was going to sink when I saw the amount of Zwarte Pieten on board.

    Wendi – Me too.

    VallyP – It would put an interesting spin on it one year :)

    Zed – Thanks. ?I should be able to get a little sleep now. I wonder if he arrives in Belgium by donkey because he spent all his money in Holland.

  6. zed says:

    HUH! He arrives on a donkey on a boat that docks in Antwerp. Everybody knows that.

  7. Sharon says:

    I have another question to keep you awake at night; slightly related to your question 4. Does he have to speak Dutch with the Belastingdienst, and does he have one of those ‘special’ arrangements with them, like certain pop stars? Ok, that was two questions (sorry)

  8. Invader Stu says:

    zed – Sounds like another mystery.

    Sharon – Argh! We’d just got one question answered and then you give me two more. Are you trying to drive me crazy? :p

  9. kiki says:

    I wish to add a question- who designs the Piet’s outfit, and where can i yell at him?

  10. Invader Stu says:

    kiki – You don’t want me to get any sleep either do you :p

    I also want to know how that costume is so soot resistant.

  11. Meta says:


    Great that you’re back! Lovely site, very interesting to read as I am Dutch :)

    Almost all questions about Sinterklaas ca be answered this way:
    Sint ofcourse has a tax piet that specialises in taxes (hope he doesn’t screw it up) and a custume design piet (who is a bit behind in fashion).
    He has been coming to the Netherlands for so long that his Dutch is perfect, I have never heard him talking Spanish for some reason…
    Any more questions? :)

    Groetjes, Meta

  12. Invader Stu says:

    Thanks Meta. I think I can get some sleep now. A tax piet sounds really handy as well.

  13. Anita says:

    Other questions…
    Why is it always (blank) Dutch people dressed like Zwarte Piete(n) ? You see the blue eyes on black faces…
    Why is it that Spaniards never heard of Sinterklaas ?
    Why Turks do not react on that ?
    Why peppernoten ?

  14. Nicola says:

    Re point 3. No – not an eccentric billionaire – according to one Sinterklass liedje that I learned a long long time ago….
    “In Spanje daar zijn hoge bergen
    De bergen van Sint Nikolaas
    Die zijn niet van steen, maar van speelgoed,
    Van zuikergoed en speculaas”

    Can’t remember the rest of it, but yes there are Hansel and Gretle style toy-and-sweet mountains in Spain…apparently.

  15. Mark says:

    Love it…It’s now 2015, but I still don’t know the answers to these questions (especially the oneabout the tan,or Sinterklass speaking dutch)

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