Sinterklaas comes to town!
Old-school Saint Nick hits Brooklyn on horseback

Brooklyn Daily
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Here for Santa: A young St. Nick fanatic sported a smile at the annual Dutch Sinterklaas celebration at the Wyckoff House museum in Canarsie on Dec. 2.
Naughty or nice: Kids signed Sinterklaas’s red book to let him know if they were good or bad all year.
Photo op: Kids aged one to 92 took photos with the original Santa, and participated in traditions that arrived with Dutch settlers.

They’re going Dutch for Christmas!

Hundreds of families celebrated the traditional Dutch Sinterklaas at the Wyckoff House museum in Canarsie on Dec. 2. The annual event, which is held on the grounds of the city’s oldest house, honors the Noel traditions Dutch settlers brought with them when they landed in what is now modern day Brooklyn and has grown so popular that this year’s was the biggest gathering yet, according to the museum’s executive director.

“A lot of families came and we had nearly 300 visitors attend — an all-time record,” said Melissa Branfman.

Kids and their parents spent the day making crafts such as Dutch shoes called klompen, and food such as olicooks — Dutch donuts. They also learned the history of Saint Nick, who came to be known as Santa Claus in North America. And when the man of the hour made his entrance on horseback, a select few youngsters even got to feed his merry mount, said Branfman.

“All of the kids got to meet the horse and pet him, and some fed him carrots — but not everyone, because we had a lot of people this year,” she said.

Each child got to enter the historic house for a one-on-one with the Dutch Santa to sign his giant red “naughty or nice” book with a quill. Spoiler alert: they all signed up on the “nice” side of the ledger.

And the kiddies weren’t the only ones eager to meet the Dutch Saint Nick — Sinterklaas had some older fans too, said Branfman.

“They got to sit next to him and take pictures, but some of the parents were excited and wanted to take pictures with him too,” she said.

The event closed out with the visitors festooning the house’s tree with ornaments before it was lit up.

Branfman says the holiday affair is one of the few chances to teach the Old World origins of Christmas’s popular mascot, and it provides families who still practice those older traditions an opportunity to celebrate them outside of their home.

“We think it’s fun to show a little variety, and how the holidays can include more Dutch traditions,” she said. “We get an enormous number of Dutch families or descendants who still celebrate this with people they know, and we want to show how we can celebrate the holidays, because Santa can come in many forms.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at
Posted 12:00 am, December 8, 2017
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