EVERY year on December 5th and 6th, tens of thousands of Dutch people paint their faces black, don Renaissance-style jerkins and pantaloons, and assume the persona of Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”). The comical character plays a vital part in the celebration of the feast day of St Nicholas, known as Sinterklaas, which overshadows Christmas as the most important children’s holiday. According to a custom standardised in the late 1800s, Sinterklaas arrives on a steamboat from Spain, accompanied by a team of his black-faced servants, who distribute presents and ginger biscuits to good children while threatening to scoop up naughty ones in a sack and carry them back to Spain to pick oranges.
Just a quaint tradition?
With his fantastical role and antique costume, Zwarte Piet seems disconnected from modern racial stereotypes. He made it through the Netherlands’ politically correct 1990s without raising many eyebrows. Yet in recent years Dutch citizens of Caribbean ancestry have begun protesting the portrayal of St Nicholas’s sidekick as a racist…
Link to article: www.economist.com/news/europe/21588960-debate-holiday-tradition-exposes-racial-attitudes-zwarte-piet-racism?fsrc=rss|eur