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“Sinterklaas” and his “Zwarte Pieten” (“Black Petes”) appear at multiple children's events around the island during his stay.
The Aruban children all anxiously await the arrival of “Sinterklaas” by boat to the port of Oranjestad. The “Spanish bishop”, as tradition would have it, is accompanied by his helpers, the “Zwarte Pieten” and they distribute presents and sweets to the expectant children. Days before his arrival the children of Aruba put out their shoes and hopefully, if they have been good during the year, find a present in that shoe the following morning. “Sinterklaas” and his “Zwarte Pieten” appear at multiple children's events around the island during his stay.
“Sinterklaas” is a Dutch holiday figure representing Saint Nicholas, a third-century bishop who became the patron saint of children and had a penchant for giving gifts. In mid-November, Arubans welcome “Sinterklaas”, his white horse and a handful of helpers – called “Zwarte Pieten”, or “black Petes” – as they sail into the Aruban harbour from Spain. (Saint Nicholas was also the patron saint of sailors.) A parade follows, with “Sinterklaas” and the “Zwarte Pieten” throwing treats to the children. On the days leading up to the sixth, “Sinterklaas” – with his long white beard, saintly attire and golden staff – is difficult to miss as he and his helpers make appearances at events sponsored by schools and businesses from all over the Island.
There are various explanations for the tradition of the “Zwarte Pieten” (“Black Peters”). One explanation claims that the “Zwarte Pieten” are modelled on a young slave named Peter who was freed by St. Nicholas. In gratitude, Peter decided to assist his liberator in his gift-giving duties.