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Subject:Sinterklaas and the black Pete discussion
Ever heard of Sinterklaas? If you aren’t Dutch, you might get a bit confused right now (all you Dutchies know what we’re on about ).
Simply put, it’s a tradition in which a mythical bearded man rides the rooftops with a white horse and gives presents to kids who have been good all year round… Sounds perfectly normal and Christmassy so far right? Well just wait until you see his little helpers, who are called Black Pete’s.
In this AnyStory we explain how history and tradition can clash with modern views. It’s a touchy subject here in the Netherlands and we are kind of proud we pulled it off! Do you agree?
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The Dutch. Famous for their tulips, cheese and liberal thinking. Every year around in December, something strange happens in their little country… A
tradition that most foreign people don’t quite understand; Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas is like Santa Claus, but with a different wardrobe. Each year, he travels from Spain by boat, which he later trades for a white horse that walks on rooftops. He doesn’t have Santa’s little elf’s. He has
his own helpers that slide down the chimney and leave presents in the shoes of excited kids, if they have been good all year round.
They are called “Pete’s”. And that’s where the
According to the tradition, Pete’s face is black because of the soot in chimneys. For Dutch kids from all ethnicities, the black paint just ads to the mystery. It’s a disguise that makes them uncertain if Pete is real or a dressed up neighbor! They just love the tradition; a Dutch version of Christmas.
Others associate Pete with
discrimination. To them, his dark paint, red lips and frizzy hair are a racist caricature that harks back to the Dutch colonial era. Like the Blackface make-up of the 19th century American theatre. They say the Dutch have become blind to the way the traditions looks. Due to globalization, a once isolated tradition is now visible to the world.
Tradition and history both represent an important piece in every culture. They define a past shape who people are today and who they’re likely to become. That’s why both parties are so passionate about their opinion.
So how can the tradition of Sinterklaas survive the next century? Well the Dutcht
can’t change their history, but they
can change a tradition. They were the first in the world to change the traditional ways of marriage, by the introduction of the gay marriage.
Is it so important that Pete’s face is black? Or do the Dutch need to use their great liberal thinking again, in order to make Sinterklaas a celebration for everybody? Something to be proud of once again!
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