To holmertz: sinterklaas & zwarte piet

  • Hej Gert & others who might want some background here...

    The blackface assistant of Sinterklaas (Zwarte Piet) has caused a HUGE debate up in the Netherlands, sometimes very aggressive even. In Belgium things are a bit more relaxed (as usual), but still there is a debate going on. Some think he is a racist symbol (black slave), others think his being black goes back to the middle ages when black often meant evil (hence Piet's original role as the bogeyman, scaring children into good behaviour). In both cases its origins are quite racist.

    On the other hand over the last half century or so Piet has evolved into a likeable character, a merry assistant, a friend of all children...and also his relationship with Sinterklaas has become rather informal and friendly. As far as his being black is concerned, most modern interpretations say that is because of the soot (from climbing down chimneys).

    Personally I don't have a problem with Zwarte Piet. Then again times change and Zwarte Piet changes with them, no problem there either.

    Three more interesting Sinterklaas facts:

    - What John refers to in his note, is the grand arrival of the Sint by boat, which was (sort of recently) imported from the Netherlands. The figure itself and the tradition is a lot, a lot older.

    - In the traditional storytelling Sinterklaas arrives by boat from Spain, suggesting that the tradition might go back to Spanish times.

    - The tradition of Sinterklaas long predates the American Santa Claus figure. Our Sinterklaas has got nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever.

    Be good.

    Benny
  • Sinterklaas
    Thank you Benny, very informative!
    Elvira