Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet 5 dec Dutch Father Christmas Netherlands

Criticism is rising internationally towards a traditional Christmas character in Dutch society that several people are calling an oppressive reincarnation.

St. Nicholas Day, celebrated in the Netherlands on December 6, represents the arrival of Santa Claus and his stogie, “Zwarte Piet” or Black Pete. Zwarte Piet works as an elf, assisting Santa with the delivery of Christmas gifts and sweets to good children. (Naughty kids apparently get kidnapped in a sack and taken to Spain.

What some Dutch citizens find problematic is the racist ideology that the ‘blackface’ process exudes within their society, the Associated Press reports. White women often dress up in an afro wig and cover their faces with black make up to mimic the fable character. With a Moorish costume and Joker-like appearance, Zwarte Piet has been connected to 20th century representations of minstrelsy and golliwogs. The image also propagates Dutch imperialism and slavery, oppositionists believe.

Zwarte Piet has yet to be condemned by modern Dutch society, with many believing that the reason why the character is black is because he collects soot on his face as he rushes down the chimney to deliver gifts.

Other Dutch citizens refuse to remain quiet about what they believe is an outdated and racist issue.

“It started out without Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet is the time to go through with it without Black Pete,” Dutch politician Andrée Christine van Es told AP.

Jessica Silversmith, the director of the Anti-Discrimination Bureau for Amsterdam, said that although it’s not a major agreement in the Netherlands, criticism is spreading — fast.

“It’s not only Antilleans or Surinamers who are complaining,” she told AP, referring to individuals who descended from Dutch colonies that used to be involved with the slave trade. “It’s all kinds of Dutch people.”

According to Dutch police, racism that is generated by the Zwarte Piet costume is real. AP reported that Dutch Police who went undercover during holiday parties said they had to arrest several people for slurs and discriminatory comments.

Netherlands St. Nicholas

  • Shepherd

    *sigh* white people…

  • Eric de Regnaucourt

    While the tradition is silly, and potentially offensive… this article is so unbelievably fluffy that I find to sympathize with the author.

    First of all, Zwarte Piet is not black; he is a Moor. That’s why he takes naughty kids to Spain.

    Secondly, phrases like “criticism is rising internationally…” and “other Dutch citizens refuse to remain quiet…” simply tell me that the author has not done any real research, but rather seen an article that mentioned this phenomenon, and thought it would be good to provoke controversy in her blog post. Lame.

  • binks

    I always felt some kind of way about “Black Pete” even as a kid. Never really cared for the character so kudos to the opposition.

  • EmpressDivine

    Moors were black

  • Tonton Michel

    Regardless of where she got the info from and the racial make up of Moors, this is offensive and has home on for far too long. The fact that you chose to focus on the author instead gives us an idea of your stance on this.

  • jcross

    Oh, the blackness is supposed to represent chimney soot? Explain the lips…

  • jcross

    And the hair.

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    If Black Pete is not black, then explain the blackface/afro wig/red lips (and gold chains).

  • Love Sosa

    they kind of had that character on the latest episode of the office.

    me and my friend were rolling during the scene.

    “i like a little racial” – patrice o’neal.


    Not shocked. Dutch people the 1st people to ship out slaves. This is typical for white people. White people in America would this all day on TV but, they know it would bring back the same consciousness of the 1960′s and 1970′s.

  • aziza

    Moors were arab, they had black slaves. Sigh…

  • aziza

    They WERE arabs. Stop lying to yourselves. Al Andalus was a calliphate controlled by Damascus. They spoke arabic, they were muslim and they built everything in arabic style, not african! It’s so sad….people try to rewrite history obviously.

  • Caramel

    So are they intimating that Santa had slaves instead of elves?!?!?!?!?!? What is the origin of the slave and Santa, I want to know the FULL story!

  • neushaar

    Yeah, this article was terrible. As a Dutch citizen, I agree that Zwarte Piet needs a make-over (so that he actually looks like he fell through a chimney). However, you make it sound like Holland is just a racist country, which, compared to America, it’s not. I would really like to see some sort of link to that police report, because it just sounds so bogus to me.

    Besides, you guys also have some shady cultural traditions (like Thanksgiving.. celebrating the genocide of the Natives). Sometimes tradition just stick around, which makes it a complicated issue.

    Also, the Pieten aren’t supposed to be Sinterklaas’ slaves any more than the elves are Santa’s slaves.

  • Marques Moreira

    While we’re discussing this, I wish someone would do something about the “Nega Maluca (Crazy Black Woman)” Carnaval block that parades during Carnaval in Brazil! Their costumes are just as ghoulish:

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