Bijenkorf is a high-end department store comparable to Macy’s in the US. Every year they hang up some gorgeous holiday lights and they decorate their store front windows for Sinterklaas (5 December holiday) and Christmas. The lights went up in early November this year, even before we left for New Year City. Here’s a look at a few of their Sinterklaas themed windows.
You can tell it is Sinterklaas because the child in the middle is holding the staff of Sinterklaas. What’s a Sinterklaas party without fashionable clothes and lots of gifts? Speaking of which, if you want to make sure kids in The Hague and Amsterdam area have gifts to open on 5 December, consider donating to Sintvoorieder1 (official website in Dutch). During their latest toy drive they received about 47,000 gifts for 22,500 children which is just awesome. The link is from omroepwest.nl in Dutch.
Megastores helemaal gesloopt voor nieuwe woontorens from omroepwest.nl (article in Dutch). Megastores is a shopping mall on the other side of The Hague’s Holland Spoor train station. However most of the stores sell furniture or home goods, so the number of shoppers has been dwindling over the years. The article talks about how the entire shopping mall will be demolished in phases starting in 2024, to be replaced by about 2,000 apartments in residential towers.
The Zeldzaam mooi markt will be at the Lange Voorhout in The Hague on Sunday, 27 November. The name translates to something like “Rare, beautiful market”. They will be selling retro, vintage and reuse items like jewelry, clothes, home goods, etc.
Sinterklaas (a figure based on Saint Nicholas) will be arriving in the Netherlands from Spain on Saturday, 12 November. This year he will be arriving in Hellevoetsluis, which apparently is a city in South Holland. Who knew? English Wikipedia apparently. His arrival in Hellevoetsluis will be televised. But on the day (or around the same day) he arrives in pretty much every Dutch city. How, you ask? Magic. He is Sinterklaas after all.
He will also be arriving in The Hague on Saturday, November 12, in the Scheveningen haven. But this year, due to all of the road work going on throughout the city, he will be taking the tram! And as indebuurt.nl reports (in Dutch), you might even see him driving the tram. But first he needs to take a driving lesson before he is allowed to do that.
The full list of places he will visit can be found at indebuurt.nl. The parade starts at 12:30 at Vissershavenweg and ends at Lange Voorhout at 17:05. If all goes to schedule, that is.
Back on the day that stores were allowed to reopen (January 15) I saw a curious find at Xenos. Xenos is a national chain here in The Netherlands. The Dutch Wikipedia page summarizes it well when they say Xenos specializes in selling “mass produced exotic goods”.
Well, apparently they also had a leftover stock of chocolate letters (English Wikipedia) from the Sinterklaas holiday, celebrated on 5 December. I know the stores had to close in mid-December due to the lockdown, but still! Albert Heijn and Hema always clear out their stock even before 5 December.
Of course, at this point they only had the most common letters (M) or some rarer ones (O, P). They still had all of the usual flavors, though. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, hazelnut…
In other news, for the history buffs among us:
Digitalised Holland Amerika line passenger lists reveal famous names from dutchnews.nl. “The digital archive, which is kept at the Rotterdam city archive and accessible to the public, covers the period between 1900 and 1969 when millions of people made the journey [from Rotterdam to the United States] and took three years to complete.” Apparently Albert Einstein was also one of the regular passengers, as he frequently taught a course at nearby Leiden University. The direct link to the list is available here (stadsarchief.rotterdam.nl, in Dutch).
Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands this Saturday from Spain, as is tradition (read more at English Wikipedia). After his arrival Dutch children start counting down to December 5, as that evening they can open their presents. Minor gifts are given (usually left in shoes) between the arrival of Sinterklaas and December 5.
Albert Heijn is getting into the party with their own version of an advent calendar with mini chocolates:
Every day from November 13 through December 5 has a little window to open (in random order, which as an adult I find a bit annoying). Aftellen tot pakjesavond = countdown to gifts evening (a literal translation).
We’ll see if things proceed as planned. The nationally televised arrival of Sinterklaas can go ahead because almost all of it is taped in advance and the city he arrives in doesn’t actually exist, due to the pandemic. Normally he arrives to much fanfare and thousands of young kids cheering him on in person or watching from home.
Regional arrivals have started to be cancelled, with Utrecht being the first big city to cancel theirs (official website in Dutch). A decision for The Hague hasn’t been made yet, but the signs informing travelers of bus and tram re-routing on Saturday are still in place, and inside the trams an automated message plays saying there will be re-routing on Saturday. It will probably go ahead as the arrival of Sinterklaas at the harbor in Scheveningen now requires tickets and they are restricting the number of tickets offered. At the moment the parade through The Hague is also still on. We’ll see.
Autumn arrived at the end of September, bringing a lot of rain and cold with it. If you are not paying attention, you will get caught in a sudden downpour that soaks you and then dissipates within 10 minutes. Marco and I also still need to try the yearly traditional of oliebollen, as I mentioned in a previous blog post. Soon!
At least the weather looks a bit drier this week, even if the warmth of summer is gone.
Marco and I visited Action today. Action (English Wikipedia) is a cheap store, kind of like Dollar General in the US without saying everything is a dollar.
Imagine my surprise (okay, not really) when we saw that Action was selling kruidnoten (English Wikipedia) already. Although I know Roger already saw some at the beginning of this month. Kruidnoten is a hard cookie-like confectionery sold in the time leading up to the Sinterklaas holiday on 5 December. These days it starts appearing in August, and 2021 was no exception.
Kudos to The Hague for putting temporary public toilets on the Grote Markt. The most shocking of all: I didn’t see any signs that you had to pay, which would be quite normal in the Netherlands. Generally the only free bathrooms are found in restaurants or cafés.
Normally these barriers would be used for the Royal Christmas Fair. However, the fair was cancelled so the barriers could be put to a different use. And public toilets are very important right now. At the moment restaurants and cafés are only allowed to be open for takeout or delivery, so there not many public toilets available to shoppers at the moment.
I also saw some toilets by the plaza outside the Tweede Kamer parliamentary building, so it is not just on the Grote Markt. (Oh, and for American readers: yes, that’s TJ Maxx in the background. However in Europe the company goes by the name TK Maxx.)
Above is a tweet from the Scheveningen police, wishing everyone a nice Sinterklaas evening. Everyone opens their presents from Sinterklaas on the evening of December 5, aka last night.