Monday, November 16, 2009

Zwarte Piet

When I saw the blackface kit for sale at the supermarket,

(photo by M. Crispin)

I knew that what I had been told about the Dutch christmas is true.

Now I'll tell you. Here goes.

Santa Claus is Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas is from Spain.
He arrives by steamboat on December 5th.
Good children leave their shoes out to be filled with candy.
Bad children are given salt.
Very bad children are kidnapped by Sinterklaas's assistant (Zwarte Piet) and taken back to Spain.
Zwarte Piet is a black skinned man, represented by a white guy in blackface and court jester garb.
Zwarte Piet is either a) a servant b) the devil or c)a chimney sweep, depending on which origination story you chose to believe.

The Dutch people have absolutely no problem with this.

Here's the photo from the Wikipedia article.
(I will add my own photo as soon as I meet a Zwarte Piet.)


  1. This has nothing to do with christmas and the way you are explaining all of this is quite biased. Zwarte Piet is Sinterklaas'helper and is black because of all the soot in the chimneys (where he goes through to bring presents to all the children).

  2. Yes, my bias is actually perfectly described in the wikipedia article (as well as a few differing origination stories):

    "Foreign tourists, particularly Americans, often experience culture shock upon encountering the character (to dress in blackface is a gross taboo in America)."