It’s Sinterklaas today, 5 December, the day in the Netherlands when gifts are exchanged amongst families, friends and colleagues. I blogged about the traditional meaning of Sinterklaas last year, Zwarte Piet love him or loathe him, he’s back! There’s been an extra hoo haa this year; In January the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights sent a letter to the Dutch government stating that Black Pete perpetuated the image of people of African descent as second-class citizens and constituted a “living trace of past slavery.” In The Hague, the seat of government, a demonstration was organized for the preservation of Sinterklaas’ traditional helpers, while a pro-Black Pete Facebook page received two million likes almost immediately. Even the nation’s highest-circulation newspaper, De Telegraaf, agreed that the United Nations letter constituted interference in the Netherlands’ domestic affairs. Read the rest of the New York Times’ article here, Why the Dutch Love Black Pete.
After an amusing encounter with a few female Pieten yesterday I confess to feeling guiltily fond of the tradition, even sensing a frisson of the Pagan in the cross-dressing ritual, but probably as a naturalised Dutch citizen I’m safer sitting on the political fence on this one. That aside, I would love to share author, David Sedaris’ hilarious take on this December Dutch tradition. If you fancy a laugh, make yourself a cuppa, grab a Speculaas bikkie and watch this Youtube clip.