He looks like the father of the Santa, he is approximately 300 years old, and celebrates his birthday by giving presents to children.
This is Sinterklaas!
The tradition of Sinterklaas is very old. About 300 years ago a bishop, Santa Nicola who lived in Spain thought that the children deserved a special treatment during the winter. He gave them presents. He travelled true Europe and gave in varies countries presents to the kids. Especially in the Netherlands it was a success. People started to do the same thing as the Bishop and 300 years later it is one of the biggest Dutch events during the winter. The people still want to be good for the children and that´s why Sinterklaas exists today.
Sinterklaas appears every year around half November. When he arrives on a steamboat lots and lots of screaming children are welcoming him. He is riding on his horse called, ´Americo´. This special horse can ride on the roofs of the houses. The children are given candy and sweets by the Sinterklaas´ helpers. The helpers are called ´Zwarte Pieten´ (literally translated Black Petes). Their skin is all black and dressed out in colorful outfits, they kind of act like clowns.
During Sinterklaas´ stay he receives lots drawings and presents of the children. He receives these drawings thanks to his ´Black Petes´, the children put their shoe with a drawing, or food for the horse in it under the fireplace. Then the children have to sing a Sinterklaas song, otherwise the ´Black Petes´ don´t know where the children live. At night the ´Black Petes´ come into the houses via the chimney, that´s why they are all black. They take the drawings or food for the horse and leave sweets, candy and a small present in the shoe behind.
The last night when the Sinterklaas is in The Netherlands, 5 December he always ends by giving lots of presents to the children. The evening is called ´presents night´. At ´presents night´ the whole family gathers, eat sweets, listening to Sinterklaas songs and waits until Sinterklaas and the ´Black Petes´ deliver a big jute bag full of presents. After this evening the Sinterklaas goes back to his homeland, Spain and waits to return next year. The children can go to their ´normal´ life and don´t have to be in tension all the time.
As you can read, Sinterklaas is a very special event with lots of own traditions. I think it´s hard to understand if you don´t come from the Netherlands. There are many more of strange traditions during Sinterklaas. If you want to see the Sinterklaas and the other traditions you should check our website and stay in one of our Rotterdam Apartment during November/December.