The Sinterklaas festivities kicked off in the Netherlands on Saturday with the saint and his helpers arriving by boat in Gorinchem, an event broadcast live on national television.
Some 20,000 people turned out to welcome Sinterklaas despite the pouring rain, town officials said. The annual arrival marks the start of three weeks of Sinterklaas-related events, ahead of the main present-giving party on December 5.
Sinterklaas processions also took place in Assen, Arnhem, Eindhoven and Rotterdam on Saturday. On Sunday, Amsterdam, Tilburg and Utrecht will host their own parades.
Anti-blackface protestors monitored the processions in several places, to make sure that sooty-faced Piets had replaced the traditional version as procession organisers had pledged.
The KOZP movement was launched in 2011 by a group of anti-racism activists and a lot of demonstrations later, the blackface character has largely disappeared, although there are still pockets of resistance, mainly in rural areas.
Although there has been a shift towards present-giving at Christmas, some 60% of Dutch households still celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5, especially ones with small children.