05 December 2013

Zwarte Piet and the NYT

Today is Sinterklaasavond and the Dutch celebrate in a variety of ways (Ace has given some information about Sinterklaas before). In the meantime, check out today's op-ed in the New York Times about "Why the Dutch Love Black Pete".

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet are described like this:

Sinterklaas arrives from Spain by steamboat in late November, travels farther on horseback, climbs onto roofs and on Dec. 5, known as “Pakjesavond,” drops presents through the chimney with the help of the Black Petes, a crew of dark-skinned helpers wearing large earrings who cavort and entertain and, as Dutch parents often tell their children, owe their blackness to chimney soot. 
Black Pete and Sinterklaas also conspire to form a punitive team. In the traditional holiday songs, Sinterklaas brings gifts for good boys and girls; naughty children get a spanking with Black Pete’s bundle of twigs.

The author goes on to describe his theory for the continued existence of Zwarte Piet (who is often played by white-skinned native Dutch in black face) and the protests both for and against a zwarte Zwarte Piet. I don't know whether the author's theory is right or wrong. If nothing else, Zwarte Piet represents our uncomfortable relationship with the past and the continued tension between the old and the new, progress and tradition.


  1. It's over!!!!!!! Well, for another year at least. SEE YA SINT.

  2. I was thinking of your blog and earlier post about Zwarte Piet last week as an "incident" involving Zwarte Piet and member of the Nova Scotia Parliament was hitting the fan in Canada. Here is the link to one of the CBC stories about the incident http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/joachim-stroink-apologizes-for-zwarte-piet-blackface-photo-1.2447494


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