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Christmas comes early for Princess Maxima and her girls

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Crown Princess Maxima of the Netherlands has officially kicked off the festive period with a cute holiday tradition. The blonde royal took her little girls, Amalia, eight, Alexia, seven, and Ariane, who is five, along to welcome Santa - or Sinterklaas as the Dutch call him – to the harbour town of Scheveningen.


Sinterklaas is the iconic holiday figure celebrated in the Netherlands on December 5, the eve of the country's patron saint, St Nicholas. Although there is time left before he gets to work delivering gifts to good children, his arrival in mid-November always attracts huge crowds, amongst which the royal family can always be found. This year was no different, and a casually dressed Maxima wrapped up warm as she took her excited girls along to meet the legendary figure. All four snuggled up for a festive picture, and although Crown Prince Willem-Alexander was absent this time around, his wife and children made sure they had enough fun for him. At one point, Maxima's youngest daughter Ariane gave her joy free reign and planted a sweet kiss on Sinterklaas' check – a daring move which drew giggles from her mother and sisters.


The little princesses lined up to give St Nicholas their gift wish lists, waiting excitedly alongside all the other children. Tradition states that they will have to wait from now until January 5, when Sinterklaas will finally deliver the gifts with the help from his assistant, Zwarte Piet. According to the colourful legend, the children who have behaved well during the year get their heart's desire, while those who have done wrong get sent to Spain in a sack. A trip to the Iberian Peninsula shouldn't be a worry for Willem and Maxima's daughters, who have behaved impeccably during their 2012 engagements so far.


They were a great support to their mum when she swam the canals of Amsterdam for charity. Amalia greeted Maxima with a kiss as she exited the waters, while her sisters clapped and cheered on her every stroke during the 2km course.