It's an old Dutch tradition that’s become a beloved tradition in Rhinebeck as well: the annual Sinterklaas Festival. In honor of its rich Dutch heritage on the first Saturday of each December the town hosts this magical holiday event, which recreates many of the customs brought to the area by settlers from the Netherlands more than 300 years ago. Every year Rhinebeck residents come together for this day-long family celebration, which finds the town center festively decorated with paintings made by local school children and includes live music and street performers, storytelling, animals, craft fairs, magic shows, ornament making, traditional Dutch food and pastries, and much more.
The Sinter Cirkus (aka the Bindlestiff Family Circkus) will return this year with a roster of sword swallowers, acrobats, clowns, and slack wire artists, as well as a homemade carousel.
The festival itself is presaged by the landing of Sinterklaas (the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas) and his trusted helpers, the Grumpuses, by boat the weekend before at neighboring Rhinecliff Dock, where the procession treats on-looking children to a traditional Dragon Play, music, and the Grumpus Dance. Portrayed by a town resident, Sinterklaas has a long, white beard and is customarily dressed in a bishop’s tall hat and red cape and carries a jeweled staff. For three nights before the main event he rides his white horse through the town as a lead-up to the Children’s Starlight Parade (aka Sinterklaas Parade), for which revelers of all ages sport glitzy, hand-decorated crowns, and the Starlight Grand Finale Pageant, which features still more bewitching performances and festivities. A unique and wonderful slice of Old World tradition combined with small-town Americana, the Rhinebeck Sinterklaas Festival should not be missed.
This Saturday, enjoy the fun all day in Rhinebeck. For more details, visit: www.sinterklaasrhinebeck.com.