Tag Archives: Christmas in the Hudson River Valley

Day One Hundred and Fifty-Six: The Sinterklaas Parade in Rhinebeck-Here comes Christmas! December 7th, 2019

Welcome back to Rhinebeck, NY for Sinterklaas!

This annual Dutch Christmas festival has become part of my Christmas tradition since I visited Rhinebeck for the event in 2010. Rhinebeck, New York is the true Currier & Ives town at Christmas time and one of the most quintessential Hudson Valley town that retains it charm being so close to the City. I love coming up here not just for the event but as you have noticed by my most current blogs, I have spent a lot of time here in the Summer and Fall letting readers know of all the wonderful events and happenings in the area.

I have to say I was not used to Christmas creeping up on me like this. It had only been five weeks since we had the Halloween Parade in the City and puppet rehearsals had only been five and a half weeks earlier when I visited Rokeby. That and it had been 71 degrees on Halloween night and Sinterklass night it was more like 25 degrees. I could really feel the drop in temperature that evening.

Having just returned from Florida over the Thanksgiving break, I had been in class giving a quiz to my students that morning and reviewing over their group project and various chapters in the book for the upcoming exam. So I did not head Upstate until almost noon. I got up to Rhinebeck at 2:00pm and that is when it set in that the snow storm that had hit New Jersey was very different from the one Upstate. The storm had been worse Upstate than it had been in New Jersey and there was still a foot of snow in Rhinebeck. I didn’t get to the main street until 2:30pm.

The side streets were closed off on one side because the snow was still piled high. So it was an eight block walk on snowy paths to the Main Street of Rhinebeck which had fully cleaned up for the parade. What was nice this year was the first three blocks of the downtown area were closed off so you could enjoy the bands and acts walking around.

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Rhinebeck when the sun goes down at Christmas

It was a cold afternoon and I noticed that the crowds were not as large as they usually were for the event. Still Rhinebeck at Sinterklaas is festive and engaging environment. There were crowds weaving in and out of the restaurants and stores and the windows were decked out for the holidays with interesting holiday displays and lit stars from the parade. All around town there bands playing, people on stilts singing and grumpuses (Sinterklaas’s helpers) dancing around and chanting. You could see that people were freezing but still having a really good time.

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The Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

I was able to get to see some of the musical performances at the churches before the start of the parade and warm up. Even the audiences did not seem as busy as they had in the past but still people were enjoying the performances and stopped shivering.

Don’t miss this performance of Uptown Lowdown in downtown Rhinebeck that afternoon. The ladies were wonderful!

Sitting in the church pews and listening to groups was enjoyable. There was only about two hours before meeting at the Starr Library for the parade so I chose my shows by groups I had not heard in the past.

I started at 3rd Evangelical Lutheran Church listening to the Bard College Georgian Choir, who sang traditional Georgian Christmas music, which was interesting. I did not understand the words but the music was enjoyable. The students did a nice job.

This is some of their work at another concert

After that, I took a short walk to the other side of the downtown and heard the Vassar Devils at the Reformed Church Sanctuary. They were lively, peppy bunch that sang traditional Christmas carols with a jazzy spin.

This is the Vassar Devils at the 2015 Sinterklaas event

After the concerts, it was a quick walk to the Starr Library to get ready for the Sinterklaas Parade. There is always a lot of excitement to the beginning of the parade and getting ready to march down the hill. For some reason, I don’t remember it getting so cold so early in the season.

The temperature  dropped as the sun went down. Everyone was excited as we lined up for the parade and got ready for the walk through the downtown. All I could think about is how fast the year had gone and how I had this conversation with myself when I walked the parade last year. Were the years getting quicker between the parades?

There is an exhilaration when the parade progresses down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck and the whole town is lit with white Christmas lights and illuminated stars that represent the parade. It may have seemed quiet in town that afternoon but the crowds were out for the parade. There must have been about a thousand people lining the street on both sides. It was a big crowd filming the parade.

There is always such excitement to this parade. Similar to the Barnacle Parade that I attended in October (Day One Hundred and Fifty One The Barnacle Parade see below), this is a home grown parade that just keeps getting bigger. When I first starting coming to the Sinterklaas Parade back in 2010, it was more local people. Now you have people coming from many states to join in the festivities. Even the cold kept people from the day’s activities, they came for the parade.

Marching toward the end of the parade with Mother Nature, this is the second year of carrying the ‘star forest; puppet (I am not pulling my back out for something heavier as in the past), we get to see the other puppets, floats and bands head down the hill. You can see the multiple lights from the other puppets and the raging sounds of the bands and the Chinese Dragons as they head down the hill to town.

You can see me in the corner holding the Star Forest puppet by Mother Nature with my Cornell Pom-Pom hat on marching to keep warm. It is an exciting night!

There is always a delay as you get to the Route 9 crossing near the Beekman Arms Hotel for the performance of the “Wild Women of Rhinebeck”, who perform their annual dance and for the ‘Dragon Dance’ that the Chinese dancers perform. It is really fun to see up close if you get the chance.

When we entered the downtown, all the kids were excited to see the Mother Nature float winding by. The parents were just as excited as they high-fived Mother Nature as they passed by groups of people. The drum line was going in full beat just behind us followed by a large group of parade goers marching in the parade with their lit stars. It was exhilarating and fun to watch from the marcher’s point in the parade. On such a cold night (by this point it was 25 degrees), I could not believe that many people were lining the parade route.

As we rounded the corner into the Rhinebeck Municipal lot to end the parade and drop the puppets off, we were greeted by a huge roar of people and the announcements from the stage for the final part of the parade. I just dropped my puppet off and enjoyed the stage show as the drum line passed by.

The stage performance was with all the main characters of the parade, Sinterklaas, Mother Holly, the Snow King and Queen, the Mermaid Queen, the Midnight Moon Princess and various members of the Sinterklaas Parade Committee who run the parade. it is a ceremony that honors the children, ‘The Kings and Queens of Sinterklaas’, for the evening.

There were musical performances, dancing, prayer and then the fire jugglers entertaining us. The audience had thinned out by this point and about a hundred and fifty people were standing in the parking lot watching the ceremony. It was getting even colder by the time the fire jugglers started. After the last announcement for the parade events next year, the crowd started to disperse. It did not take long to watch crowd leave as it got so cold.

I walked around downtown Rhinebeck for about twenty minutes letting the crowds thin out and the traffic leave but by that point the town really quieted down and most of the cars were gone as I did not see that much traffic.

It was fun to walk the town one more time and admire the beautiful Christmas windows of all the stores and the sparking white lights that lined the trees on both sides of the main street of Rhinebeck. It is really is picturesque.

I had full day of work the next day that including decorated houses to visit, historical society events to attend, an Afternoon Tea at the Newark Museum (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) and then an evening selling Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association (see blogs on Christmas on MywalkinManhattan.com) so staying overnight in Rhinebeck was not possible this year. It was going to be a long ride home.

It was worth it and a lot of fun!

Happy Sinterklass and Merry Christmas!

Check out the videos online on the Sinterklaas Parade on YouTube. It is an exciting night!

My Halloween Blog on the Halloween Parade in October:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/10800

My blog on the Barnacle Parade in October:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/10747

Day Thirty-Two: “The Sinterklaas Parade” in downtown Rhinebeck, NY December 5th, 2015

The Christmas holiday season was a whirlwind of activities for me that took me again away from Manhattan and up to Rhinebeck, New York for the annual ‘Sinterklaas Holiday Festival’ and activities. Sinterklaas is a Dutch holiday tradition that has been recaptured in the Hudson River Valley and is run the first Saturday in December every year. It is to celebrate the coming of ‘Sinterklaas’ or “Santa Claus” as we know it. This was my third year in helping out in the parade.

As the literature states, ‘Sinterklaas is the celebration where children are transformed into Kings and Queens and honored as the bringers of the light at the darkest time of the year.

The tradition of Sinterklaas comes all the way from the Netherlands, brought by the Dutch settlers who arrived in Rhinebeck over 300 years ago. Sinterklaas, the patron of children and sailors, finds a welcoming community in the Mid-Hudson Valley as recreated through the lens of modern day America.

The revived tradition is non-denominational and all inclusive, everyone is invited to participate. The young, the old, the in-between, absolutely everyone and anyone who wants to be part of a community of hope for a joyous and peaceful world are all welcome.’

Our coordinator for the parade, Trish, wanted me up by 10:00am and that was a treat taking a two hour drive from Northern New Jersey to Upstate New York, but it ended up being a very nice and very quick trip up as there was no traffic on the road.

Again the weather could not have been nicer as it reached 60 degrees in Rhinebeck at the height of the afternoon and even I could not believe it got that warm. It was such a nice day that when we were putting the floats together, I did not even need a jacket.

I put together the ‘Honey Bee’ puppets as my first project. The artist did a really nice job with them as they were our theme for the parade, honoring one of nature’s creatures, the Honey Bee.

Sinterklaas Parade 2015

The ‘Honey Bee’ floats

‘Distinct from all other animals with the exception of those that give us milk, the Honey Bee makes more honey than they need for themselves and that’s why there is enough for us. They don’t just give us sweetness but medicine, flowers, fruits, vegetables and meat, natures beauty and bounty. They make our lives beautiful, tasty and nutritious.’

We put the puppets together in record time and later in the parade (see YouTube under ‘Sinterklaas Parade 2015), they made quite a site as it grew dark and they lit up the beginning of the parade. After my partner, Liz and I, put them all together, we worked on the knight horse costumes for the parade and then on the star puppets. We had so many people helping that we got done in record time and got to spend the afternoon enjoying the activities in the afternoon. We did not have to be back until 4:30pm for the startup of the parade.

Sinterklaas Parade

The festival was chock full of events for all age groups, from puppet shows, to book readings, musical acts on stilts, storytelling and all sorts of musicians from the local colleges from brass bands to a Capella groups to choirs performed at all the churches and at city hall. In the parking lot across from the Beekman Arms Hotel, there were high wire acts, local bands and all over town there were local groups like the Four H and the Boy Scouts selling treats at booths all over the Main Street.

There is a special show at the Church of the Messiah called “Into the Light: A holiday Spectacular”, which has become very popular every year. The lines wrapped around the building. Its the holiday story of a young girl’s journey throughout the world searching for the light. The play features giant puppets and groups of children from the church singing.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II

‘In to the Light’ show

There was a giant honeycomb in the courtyard by the restaurant that makes thin-crusted pizzas and the kids got to meet the Queen Bee. The line was so long that I could not get in but later that evening I was able to see the inside and I have to say that one of the artists was creative in putting this together.

I also saw a giant polar bear walking around town and you had to sing him. It must have been a long day for the actor who had to do that in that heavy costume but it was fun to watch. Watching the kids to sing to him and watch the bear dance was a lot fun.

There was a Pocket Lady who symbolizes the generosity of Sinterklaas and in her pockets are all secret surprises for children and at the Rhinebeck Fire Department there was a Crowns & Branches workshop where kids could decorate branches and crowns that would be used in the parade and meeting the Wish Lady, who would provide a wish for your branch. Watching the Grumpus do there dance all over town was a lot of fun. They are some of Sinterklaas’s helpers and I swear are probably the same people who have been doing it for years. They dance and bang drums all over town.

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The Grumpuses

The best part was visiting the Reformed Church for their bake sale. They had really good frosted cookies and I swear I went back three times much to the thankfulness of the kids running the booth. The Third Evangelical Lutheran Church has a lunch area in the basement and they made a mean grilled cheese for a small donation and the tables off to the side was laden with Christmas cookies, which were part of the cost of the lunch. When I tell you these people can bake at the Church, they can bake. Their frosted cookies and cakes were really good. For a small donation, you can eat like a king for lunch.

At dusk, when it starts getting darker, the lights on the trees come into full form and all the businesses on the Main Street light up their display windows. The town looks like a little Christmas village out of a Currier & Ives portrait. It really puts you in the Christmas mood.

Rhinebeck at Christmas

Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

I got back to the library at 5:00pm to get ready for the parade. My job like last year was lighting Sinterklaas himself. That is a lot of fun because you are at the beginning of the parade and you get to see the whole parade coming down the hill and that is quite a site.

Like the Macy’s Parade, there is such anticipation at the start of the parade and watching it come down the hill is like being at Mardi Gras. It is so well lit and so colorful with bands playing and people dancing and so full of energy. It looks like a giant party coming down the hill.

The guy who plays Sinterklaas I worked with the year before so I knew him. We did not get to talk much during the rain storm that drenched everyone last year and we just wanted to get off the parade route. This year it was still slightly warm as the parade started so it was fun to spend a lot of time with the kids. He is a naturally born ham and the kids just adored the guy. I had to chase him around the parade route with a lighting pack and a giant candle that lit him. He had all the fun and I had to make sure that he did not go dark the whole time. Work yes but it is so much fun watching how he made each one of these children’s day. Every time he passed a child to talk to them, they were so happy and they cheered.

Sinterklaas Parade II

Sinterklaas

That was the power of Sinterklaas. If you are not in the holiday spirit, the Sinterklaas parade will definitely put you in the mood. It was a spectacular night of bands, great costumes, creative puppets and festive cheer.

It didn’t end a moment too soon as it typical with Rhinebeck this time of the year that the temperature drops like ten degrees in one hour. I handed my lighting wand in and watched all the costume characters from the parade get introduced to the crowd by the parade leaders. It was a nice way to end the parade and collect all the props while keeping everyone engaged.

I spent the night in Rhinebeck and relaxed. This is one event you should not miss while in Upstate New York. The Sinterklaas Celebration is a real treat of holiday activities and good cheer!

Merry Christmas!

 

The Sinterklaas Parade 2015