Each year the entire town of Rhinebeck, NY comes together to create a celebration. Volunteers of all ages hand make signs, decorations, crowns and other cheerful insignia in preparation for one of the most highly anticipated annual events.
Read about the history of the Sinterklaas tradition and the colorful characters that bring the Festival to life.
What is Sinterklaas?
Many people asked: what is this celebration that happens on early in December? Why have a special interest and pride in this time of year?
The answer: we are honoring our Dutch heritage by recreating customs that the settlers from Holland brought to the Hudson Valley. The Dutch people who came to Rhinebeck over 300 years ago brought a celebration with them that was already a deeply rooted part of their traditions.
The ritual was simple enough. Each year on December 6 (that’s the Dutch tradition, ours in the first Saturday in December), a town resident dressed up as Sinterklaas (that is, elegantly garbed in a bishop’s tall hat, red cape, shiny ring, and jeweled staff). Mounted on a white steed, this Sinterklaas would ride through town knocking on doors late at night. He would be accompanied by his long-time sidekick, the Grumpus. Also known as Black Peter, the Grumpus — a wild looking half-man, half-beast character — rattled chains and threatened to steal away the naughtiest children in his big black bag. And for those “less bad” he had switches for exacting lesser punishments! And for the good children — Sinterklaas and the Grumpus would deliver a bag of goodies.
Over the years, as towns developed and houses grew closer together, Sinterklaas’ ride turned into a Parade that still happens in Holland to this day, and is the most popular of all Dutch holidays.
Read More about the History of Sinterklaas and get to know who each important character is.
Sinterklaas in The News
- See Videos of the Sinterklaas Festival courtesy of the Kingston Freeman
- Huffington Post wrote about the Sinterklaas Festival
- YNN.com did a feature story on Sinterklaas