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In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas (nicknamed Sinter Klass) is depicted as a tall, slender man wearing a red bishop’s robe and tall bishop’s hat. He carries a bishop’s miter and rides a white horse. His helper, Black Peter, who is garbed in the Renaissance fashion of puffed velvet breeches, rides alongside Saint Nicholas on a mule, his face covered in soot. Black Peter’s 16th Century clothing is a reminder of the Spanish dominion over the Netherlands, which finally ended in 1570. Black Peter was often depicted with horns and red eyes. Dutch children were told he was the devil, whom Saint Nicholas had captured and made his servant.

Children in the Netherlands believe that Saint Nicholas arrives on December 5th (the eve of his saint day) along with Black Peter. Black Peter would jump from roof to roof, sliding up and down chimneys, leaving gifts in the little wooden shoes left by the hearth. Children would fill their shoes with hay and carrots for Saint Nicholas’s horse and Black Peter’s mule.

The idea of good fortune coming via the chimney goes back to pagan days, when people thought good spirits could travel as swiftly as smoke. It was very similar to the German holiday tradition of Heartha, Goddess of the Home. Mothers reinforced the idea of Saint Nicholas and Black Peter by cleaning out their hearths just before December 6th. They told children that cleaning it out would make it easier for Black Peter to deliver presents.

This article is part of http://dutch-history.suite101.com/article.cfm/christmas_in_the_netherlands

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Additional Photos by Ricardo Mejia S (jrmejias) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 35 W: 0 N: 21] (247)
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