An estimated 50,000 people were in the Limburg town of Roermond on Saturday to witness the official arrive of Sinterklaas – marking the start of the three-week countdown to the main Dutch present-giving celebration on December 5.
A further 1.7 million people watched the arrival of the Sint from Spain on television. It was the 61st time the ‘arrival’ of St Nicholas has been a formally-organised event, Nos television said.
This year, there were no reports of any protests about Zwarte Piet, St Nicholas’ controversial black helpers.
Last year, several Surinamese artists were arrested while protesting about the ‘racist elements’ in the Sinterklaas tradition.
Although the official arrival is shown live on television, other cities and towns also organise their own events.
In IJmuiden, a local council-organised Sinterklaas arrival was partly disrupted by the discovery of a body in the water.
Meanwhile, a report by ING economists at the weekend shows a sack of traditional Sinterklaas presents has largely escaped inflation.
Although the retail price index has gone up by 2.9%, dvds have gone down 4.2% in price and books 2%. Sweets are 0.4% cheaper than a year ago. Toys are 1.2% more expensive and perfume has risen 1.7% in price.
Research last week by the Q&A research group showed 20% of households think the government’s austerity measures will have an impact on their Sinterklaas celebrations this year.
The researchers say just under half (49%) of Dutch households plan to celebrate Sinterklaas, continuing the downward trend of the past few years.
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