Today, the 5th of december the Dutch celebrate the birthday of Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas.In Germany and some parts of Belgium, it's celebrated on the 6th. But there are many other countries that know or celebrate this feast (like Luxembourg, Austria and some Balkan countries).
Did you know that this tradition is the basis of the mythical holiday figure of Santa Claus in the US?!
Originally Sinterklaas celebrated the name day of Saint Nicholas (280–342 a.C.)
While it's actually a holiday for children, many Dutch adults love it as well. That's probably because it's not so much about the gifts, as it is about the rhyming poems and "surprises" accompanying them. Sinterklaas is in fact the perfect time to make fun of people and get a (a little) even!
The arrival of Sinterklaas is each year a big thing... his "official" entry in The Netherlands, by boat, supposedly coming from Spain, is broadcasted live on television and watched by more than 2 million people.
Since the 19th century Sinterklaas is always in the company of Zwarte Piet, which spurrs a lot of controversy. Although I think more abroad, than in The Netherlands itself. It's hard to change a tradition I guess. Speaking for myself, I never considered Zwarte Piet as scary. (Maybe Sinterklaas more so...)
If you're interested in the historical background of the Sinterklaas tradition, go to: