Sinterklaas comes to Rhinebeck

(Photo by Mark Fuerst)

St. Nicholas may have started out, historically, as a bishop in fourth-century Asia Minor with a reputation for strategic philanthropy, somehow making his way to the Netherlands to become Amsterdam’s patron saint; but it’s arguably New Yorkers – particularly residents of the Hudson Valley – who are largely to blame or thank for the jolly fat man’s international ubiquity.

While there is evidence that the early settlers of New Netherland observed certain traditions associated with the feast day of Sinterklaas on December 6, it appears that they were largely forgotten by the time Washington Irving – the original consummate New Yorker – came along with a mission to rekindle public interest in the region’s roots in Dutch folklore. In his 1812 revisions to A History of New York, Irving inserted a dream sequence featuring St. Nicholas soaring over treetops in a flying wagon. Eleven years later, the publication of A Visit from St. Nicholas expanded that image into the reindeer-drawn, scarlet-clad Santa we know best today. The Hudson Valley gave the world St. Nick as most folks now know him; why not reinvent him yet again, just a little?

In the present-day Hudson Valley Sinterklaas celebrations, Kingston plays the role of Spain and Rhinebeck assumes the role of Holland. Sinterklaas was feted  last Saturday in a parade on the Rondout and then left Kingston by tugboat.

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This Saturday, December 2, Sinterklaas will ride into Rhinebeck on his white horse, and the festivities go on all day long, with live dance, theater and music happening all over the village. Don’t miss the Dancing Bear, the Pocket Lady and Mother Holly. The spectacular Children’s Starlight Parade, featuring two-story-tall animated puppets carried by hundreds of volunteers, closes the day at twilight, followed by a Family Hoedown at 7 p.m. and an Adult Dance Party at 9 p.m.

All Sinterklaas events are free of charge and open to the public. Parking is available at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck High School, the Rhinebeck Highway Department and the Starr Library. For more information, e-mail sinterklaashudsonvalley@gmail.com or visit www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com.