The good king Saint Claus, the guardian of all children, follows his post-Thanksgiving boat arrival in town by riding around Rhinebeck's various neighborhoods for three nights, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, December 1, 2 and 3, on his white horse, his prankster sidekick Grumpus by his side, seeking out the traditional "carrot in a shoe" that local kids are to leave for him. In return, he leaves candy on doorsteps and presents performances of St. George and the Dragon by a roving teen cast (under the auspices of the always-excellent Center for the Performing Arts at Rhinebeck).
Finally, everything builds to a head on Saturday, December 5, when hundreds of local children who have been making crowns and costumes for themselves in the interim week take their branch-scepters from workshops at the town's centuries-old Dutch Reformed Church, attach three wishes to them and parade through Rhinebeck. In addition, there will be daylong performances in Town Hall, the community's churches, the Beekman Arms and the local shops, along with a rich variety of traditions from other cultures as well, including the region's new Mexican population and its indigenous Native Americans.
Among highlights - available in an online calendar and schedule, as well as handouts available around town - will be the Abbots Bromley Deer Dance, a stilt band and fire-jugglers. There will be a Cookie Tree at the Beekman Arms and an Illustrated Book of the entire festival and regional history, as well as musical performances and games galore.
At 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m. at Town Hall, there will be a "Festival of Light Holiday Spectacular" presented by the Vanaver Caravan and the Arm-of-the-Sea Theater: a holiday story of a young girl's journey throughout the world searching for the light, featuring giant puppets, music and dances from Holland, Sweden (Santa Lucia with real candle crowns!), Israel, Mexico, Ireland and more. And at 2 p.m., folksinger and "Puff, the Magic Dragon" author Peter Yarrow will be on hand to sign copies of his new kids' book, and sing a bit, at Oblong Books in the center of everything. The concluding Children's Starlight Parade kicks off, with adults carrying giant illuminated stars, at 6 p.m. on Market Street, followed by carol-singing and an evening square dance, again at Town Hall.
To tell you the truth, there's more happening than can be listed in a single publication! It all started from memories of a series of magical Dutch Christmas celebrations that a local artist, Jeanne Fleming, put on for seven years in the 1980s, wherein local kids were named monarchs for a day so that all grownups could pay courtly deference to them. Fleming's still involved, but so now is the entire town and, increasingly, the whole Valley, from various artists to the nearby folks who make the giant puppets for Greenwich Village's Halloween Parade each autumn. You can't miss it, especially if you have kids - or a kid-at-heart inside. Call (845) 758-5519 or visit Sinterklaasrhinebeck.com for further information, with regular updates.