Dutch traditions: Saint Nicolas

All saints have their own holiday, like Saint Patrick on 17 March, but no saint has so many traditions in so many countries and is as well-known as Saint Nicolas. Not only in the Netherlands and Belgium is it considered a holiday, all across Europe, like Romania, the Tsjech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and some parts in France, but also farther away like Ukraine and Curacao. In every country the celebration is based on different stories, legends and history, leading to different traditions and various forms of celebrations.

According to the songs Saint Nicolas comes from Spain, which is probably based on the lively trade the Netherlands has had with Spain for centuries. He originally comes from Turkey and was a bishop in the fourth century. Most famous is the tale about a poor farmer who wasn’t able to get together the dowry for his three daughters. When they got to a marital age a pocket with money was found in their drying shoes in front of the fire. It is said that it was Nicolas who provided the money for the dowry.

This tale, among others, is the base for the feast that is held on 5 December each year, but there is enough happening in the weeks prior to this date. He arrives by steamboat halfway November and as he is a busy man, there are a lot of back-up Saint Nicolases arriving around the same time in all parts of the country too. From that date on children put shoes in front of chimneys and front doors filled with drawings, oranges and carrots for Saint Nicolas and his horse. They often sing songs too. Overnight, shoes are sometimes filled with pepernoten (tiny, gingerbread biscuits), chocolate coins and small gifts or they are left alone, which means Saint Nicolas was too busy to make a house call that night. On 5 December Saint Nicolas has an exhausting night, as he has to visit every house. He often just leaves big bags or crates filled with presents near the front door and knocks on the door to let the children know he was there.

As we all know Saint Nicolas can only do so much, so from around the age of 8 or 9 children and adults give each other gifts too. Tickets with names are drawn, indicating for who you have to buy a present, make a ‘surprise’ and write rhymes. The surprise serves the idea that it takes time to find out who it’s for, or what the present inside could be. The poem is often written to mock or emphasise characteristics and events that happened that year. Saint Nicolas knows everything and has eyes everywhere so it’s important to deny you made that ‘surprise’ or wrote that poem. The sport, on the other hand, is to find out as soon as possible who drew your ticket.

In larger groups or when people are too busy to make ‘surprises’ people often play games. The eyes of the dice, which is often used, indicating what to do with presents, like giving it away or passing it to the left or right.

In whatever form Saint Nicolas is celebrated, it usually comes with typical snacks, like speculaas, pepernoten, chocolate letters, taaitaai, meringue in Saint Nicolas shapes and marzipan. Nowadays gifts are often toys and other items for pastime, whereas the gifts, until relatively recently, used to be things like warm socks and jumpers. This tells us celebrating Saint Nicolas isn’t about what presents you get, but about having fun, being together and sharing.

Boats used during Roverway 2018

The International Scout Centre Zeewolde is located in Flevoland, the province that is surrounded by water. Spread out along the water and with its own pier it’s the perfect location to complete your Roverway adventure with a sailing experience, which we are organising for everybody. In boats especially designed for Dutch Sea Scouts you’ll find out what it’s like to fly across the water and feel the wideness with only sky above and water under you.

With the North Sea in the west, the Waddenzee in the north, dozens of lakes, canals, streams and several big rivers passing through, the Netherlands may be called a water rich country. With so much water around, about three hundred scout groups spend most of their time on and around the water. During Rowerway 2018 lelievletten will be the boats you’ll be using for your sailing experience. There might also be some lelieschouwen present for the more advanced sailers.

The first lelievlet, with its name derived from the Scout lily and designed for Scouting Nederland, was built in 1956. It’s a 6 person boat, made of steel and is used for sailing, rowing and sculling. With over 1500 boats present in the Sea scout fleet, it’s by far the most popular one. Next to sea scouts in the Netherlands, some sea scouts groups in Belgium and the National Water Activities Centre(NWAC) in Ireland use them.

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The lelieschouw is actually a Friese schouw and bigger than the lelievlet. Scouting Nederland started using them in 1949. The first 10 were made of wood, but they started using steel for them afterwards. They aren’t as easily used for rowing and sculling as lelievletten and it takes experience to keep a lelieschouw at speed, especially after changing direction.

From those first 10 wooden boats, 9 are still in use. After almost 70 years, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Next to lelieschouwen and lelievletten Sea Scouts use juniorvletten too for sailing and exploring the water, weather and nearby mainland. Younger children up to 8 years old use mainly canoes and kayaks to find their way on the water. Groups that have their own guard boat spend many of their weekly gatherings here too. Not every sea scout group has a guard ship, but there are 54 ships spread out over the country. The fleet also has about 120 tug and motorboats, which are used to get sailing boats back to shore of guide them through narrow passages.

The fleet is presented during the Vlotenschouw, which marks the end of Nawaka, the water camp that is held every four years. Boats are are decorated with lights and form a long chain, slowly gliding into dusk, spreading their light across the surrounding water.

Who are joining Roverway 2018 already?

Roverway 2018 is a European camp, but Rovers and Rangers from other countries are welcome too. Some Rovers and Rangers, whose countries won’t be having a Contingent, might join other ones. It will be interesting to see so many different nationalities during Roverway 2018. For certain we’ll be welcoming Contingents from:

Denmark, Ireland, UK, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Romania, Finland, Germany, Poland, Greece, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Georgia, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, Taiwan, Ghana, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, Chile and Canada.

Buy your merchandise at the Tulip shop

Do you want to have a Roverway 2018 scarf? Or do you feel like bringing small present home? Or did you forget something practical? ScoutShop will have a solution for you. At The Hague and at Zeewolde, ScoutShop will be open for you and can provide you with various products. In case you want to take a peak you can have a look in the Dutch ScoutShop on www.scoutshop.nl.

If you need equipment like tents or chairs ScoutShop can provide those for you too, but please get in contact with them prior to Roverway 2018 via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The Scout Shop and the Tulip Shop have some Roverway 2018 merchandise for sale at the central camp in Zeewolde. Examples of Roverway 2018 branded merchanise are badges, pins, clothing and the famous Dutch cloggs.

The Tulip shop is Roverway 2018’s online shop where you can find products you will find in Zeewolde during the camp too. But why wait until summer to get a shirt or hoodie and find out your size may be sold out or your favourite colour isn’t available anymore? Arrive prepared at Roverway 2018 and find your size in your favourite colour in the Tulip shop.

After a couple of trial runs over the last few weeks the Tulip shop has been fully operational. There you can find a selection of merchandise, which will be extended when we get closer to Roverway 2018. Not only are the shirts and hoodies available in a wide variety of colours, but also in men’s and women’s models. There is a clear table to guide you to your right size. So if you were wondering what to buy for your Rover/Ranger friend or what to put on your wishlist for the upcoming holidays, you might want to check out the Tulip shop.

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Rover Band release

Ever dreamed of playing on the big stage? Are you the kid that sat in their room, wishing you could take your talent to the masses? If the answer is yes to either of these, we want to hear from you. We are Sam and Marieke, the managers of the Rover Band, a band of Rover and Ranger musicians being put together to play at Roverway 2018. 

The Rover Band is a separate path, available to a hand-selected group of Roverway participants. Instead of going onto a path with your patrol, you will join an international patrol comprised of the band and us, as your Path leaders. We will spend our time rehearsing, and exploring our own musical Path, as well as performing in various places around the Netherlands. This will all be in preparation for a performance in front of over 4000 participants and IST at the opening ceremony, midweek shows, and the final closing ceremony. 


So, what are we looking for?  

  • A good level of musical ability is expected, but no official grade or performance experience is necessary
  • All instruments and vocal styles are welcome
  • Basic English speaking ability preferred
  • Ability to communicate before and during Roverway 2018
  • Enthusiasm and energy 
  • Willingness to rehearse at home in the build-up to Roverway 2018
  • Ability to work in a team
  • A sense of humour!!

The audition process

All applicants will send an audition video to the Rover Band team. This should be no shorter than 1:30, and no longer than 5:00. You are more than welcome to play any instrument, sing any song, in any style or language. This video should be uploaded to the internet and sent to the Rover Band, using the following form: Rover Band Application. The deadline for sending your audition is 9th December, 2017. All applicants will receive an email on the 12th of December, informing them whether they have been selected or not. Selected applicants will then be invited to a conference call with the Path leaders and the other members of the band. 

All this information will be available on the Roverway social media, however if you’re really interested, come follow us on Instagram at Roverband2018. If you have any questions, please contact us directly on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We can’t wait to hear from you!


Sam & Marieke


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This Roverway edition
will focus on the personal
development of the participating Rovers and Rangers as part of their role in society. The Roverway will provide the environment in which Rovers and Rangers can interchange experiences, knowledge and ideas. This exchange of experiences will be encouraged through the three educational objectives, which all centralize around society and intercultural learning.  


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