06 December: Celebration of Saint Nicolas’ birthday

Did you know that in the Netherlands and in Belgium the birthday of Saint Nicolas is celebrated with lots of presents and sweets on the eve of 5 December (NL) and 6 December (BE)? The presents are brought to all children by Saint Nicolas and his helpers through the chimney. Sounds familiar, you might say, and you are correct! Saint Nicolas is the ancestor of Santa Clause, so to speak, but still very much alive in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Sweets & small presents in your shoes or boots Although bishop Nicolas of Myra lived in ancient times, his story only really finds roots somewhat later in the medieval period when he was worshipped for doing good and being a friend to children in need. Around his birthday, sweets and presents were exchanged. Late 19th century the Catholic celebration transformed into a folk festival with the preservation of some traditional customs to this day, like singing Saint Nicolas songs and finding small presents in your shoes or boots in the period leading up to his birthday.

Exciting ‘Pakjesavond’ On 5 December (NL) and 6 December (BE) the party really gets going with ‘Pakjesavond’, an evening filled with lots of presents for all children which are brought by the helpers of Saint Nicolas (the ‘Pieten’) in a large sack made of jute. Have you been good all year? Then you will find presents in the bag. Have you been naughty? Then the empty bag will be used by the Pieten to wisk you off to Spain, where the good Saint lives.

Saint Nicolas at our NL & BE offices Every year Saint Nicolas is also celebrated at the Dutch and Belgium TUI offices with our colleagues and their children. Saint Nicolas and his helpers honoured our offices with a visit, with song, dance, sweets and presents for the TUI kids. Have a look!