The Sinterklaas Procession isn’t the largest or flashiest holiday event in Holland, but it is the most authentically Dutch. Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) arrives on or about St. Nicholas Eve (December 5) via a parade begining in the Kerstmarkt, the annual European-style Christmas bazaar at Eighth Street Market Place. Plan to arrive around 6:30 p.m. to see the soft-spoken icon dressed in a long white beard and traditional costume resembling a cardinal's red and white robes.
Holland’s town crier leads the way, ringing an oversized bell and announcing Sinterklaas’ arrival. Behind him, a single horse-drawn carriage bears a few corporate sponsors (those downtown decorations don’t come cheap), followed by Sinterklaas on a white horse surrounded by helpers called Zwarte Pieten, or Black Peters. Dressed in brightly colored costumes, Sinterklaas' helpers take their name from the charcoal smudges on their faces, indication that they've been crawling through chimneys delivering presents into the wooden shoes of good Dutch children.
Once Sinterklaas completes his mile-long journey to Centennial Park, the crowd sings Dutch carols before heading across the street to the Holland Museum for photo ops, cocoa and cookies.