Sinterklaas (or more formally Sint Nicolaas or Sint Nikolaas; Saint Nicolas in French; Sankt Nikolaus in German) is a traditional Winter holiday figure still celebrated today in the Low Countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as French Flanders (Lille) and Artois (Arras). He is also well known in territories of the former Dutch Empire, including
South Africa, Aruba, Suriname,
Curaçao, Bonaire, and Indonesia.
He is one of the sources of the holiday figure of Santa Claus in North America.
Although he is usually referred to as Sinterklaas, he is also known as De Goedheiligman (The Good Holy Man), Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas) or simply as De Sint (The Saint).
He is celebrated annually on Saint Nicholas' eve (5 December) or on the morning of 6 December in the
Belgium and Northern France. Originally, the feast celebrates the
name day of Saint Nicholas — patron saint of children, sailors, and the city of
among others. Sint Nicholas being a bishop and this geographical spread make
clear that the feast in this form has a Roman Catholic background.
Closely related figures are also known in German-speaking Europe and territories historically influenced by German culture, including: Switzerland (Samichlaus), Germany and Austria (Sankt Nikolaus); the region of South Tyrol in Italy; Nord-Pas de Calais, Alsace and Lorraine in France - as well as in Luxembourg (De Kleeschen), parts of Central Europe and the Balkans.