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Suriname wants to scrap Sinterklaas festivities

Friday 23 December 2011

The parliament of the former Dutch colony of Suriname wants to abolish the Sinterklaas festivities because the relationship between the white saint and his black assistant is 'a poor example for children', Nos television reports.

The paper says former president Ronald Venetiaan came up with the plan while the country's arts and culture budget was being debated in the National Assembly.

In particular, Venetiaan is unhappy that Paramaribo's Independence Square is used to celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas, Nos says.

In particular, parliament plans to introduce legislation to stop the celebration of Sinterklaas in schools.

This year in the Netherlands, several Surinamese artists were arrested while protesting about the 'racist elements' in the Sinterklaas tradition.

Anti-Zwarte Piet arrests prompts new debate

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

The Sinterklaas celbration days worldwide are numbered. Vancouver banned it this year due to its racial undertone and now Suriname does the same. The last battle will be fought in the Netherlands where it will also be seriously modified in the near future. I guess this shows that 'black' people are becoming more politically influential worldwide and are no longer scared to challenge customs and traditions that portray them in a stereotypical way. The average Caucasian Dutch person may not understand this. But then, we tend to view the world through the lenses of our environment.

By Zra My | 23 December 2011 1:01 PM

Good on Suriname to dispute this silly black piet tradition! People stand up for your rights no one has to do " aanpassen" if some tradition is outdated just like bull fighting is Spain .....

By Minnie | 23 December 2011 9:57 PM

They should make Sinta Klaas a black man and the Zwarte Piets white kids for a couple of years and see how it goes.

By Chris | 23 December 2011 11:59 PM

The whole ZP makes me shudder, but can't the tradition just be tweaked rather than eliminated totally? Let Suriname make it their own! No cultural tradition is static; it is always evolving and modernizing...why not this one?

By CW | 24 December 2011 9:41 AM

Don't tell me....political correctness again? LOL! - 'just like the golly on the marmalade pot?

By The visitor | 24 December 2011 6:42 PM

Why not differently colored (bright orange, green, or blue, etc) Pieten? I saw those on TV once, and they looked great. Something the kids would love too.

By Valentijn | 27 December 2011 8:26 AM

Though seeing someone in "black face" is a little shocking to a North-Americaner, I DO NOT see the racism in Sinterklaas AT ALL. Zwarte Piet's are black because they CRAWLED THROUGH A CHIMNEY, it has anything to do with racism. So what's the big deal!?!?

By Stupid | 27 December 2011 8:38 AM

I would say Sinterklaas tradition is good for bringing the races together. Perhaps a little change can make it both neutral and amusing - every year throw a coin and decide who is going to be black, Sinterklaas or the Pieten.

By George | 27 December 2011 3:15 PM

Crawling through the chimney? Haha, Yeah that's why their entire face is black and they have big red lips and black curly hair. And there clothes are spotless. Nice try on the chimney made up story.

By mike12 | 27 December 2011 7:32 PM

Hey Stupid, your version is a latter version on the black face....the Zwate Piet's were the ones that put the kids in big bags and took all the bad kids to Spain. They were not very nice. Later came "they were black because of the Chimney".....now lets eliminate them all together.

By alanposting | 27 December 2011 9:25 PM

@Stupid- You've been told one version of why Black Pete is black and chose to believe that. Do some research and you'll figure out that it is completely racist and not about the chimney dust at all. Tell me- why does Sinterklaas not do any of the work? He stays on his white horse and Zwarte Piet does it all. If it's just chimney dust then why the full on black face costume? The big deal is that it is offensive.

By Jane | 27 December 2011 9:59 PM

Lets hope the Dutch see sense and put this racist nonsense behind them.With this the rise of the PVV makes Holland look like the bad guys of Europe just as the Germans were.

By Jason | 27 December 2011 10:00 PM

Being from the Vancouver area, I'm glad to see that the world is following our lead to get rid of the offensive part of the Sinterklaas celebration.

By Roger B. Jones | 28 December 2011 6:08 AM

@stupid,I am not sure what crawling down a chimney will do to a white person but it will definatly not give you red lips and kinky African hair(they wear an Afro as well) as well as black skin and speaks bad dutch as well. BTW have you noticed that no black person has been dressed as ZP.Have you seen early cartoons of how black people are portrayed in cartoons?please check.

By mytwopees | 28 December 2011 8:14 AM

they crawled through a chimney? and the red lips and curly hair?

By expat | 28 December 2011 8:29 AM

Don't be hypocrit, you know that going through a Chimney would also affect the clothes, and would not make the lips bigger and red.

By Mister Frikandel | 28 December 2011 10:30 AM

I'm black and British and I have lived in the Netherlands for almost 20 years now. I can honestly say, I hate it when the sinterklaas festivities come around each year.
When I questioned my Dutch friends, after doing my own research, I found most if not all had no clue about Zwarte Piet. I would get the following answers:

1- They are blacked out not because they are black, but because of climbing down chimneys. That answer would be fine, but does not answer why they have to wear afro wigs and bright red lipstick and are completely blackened or why some would talk in a Surinamese accents, which I have also seen over the years.
2- Some say they are Moors from Spain, who act as his helper. However,The first origin of Sinterklaas and his helpers can probably found in the Wild Hunt of Wodan Riding the white horse Slepnir he flew through the air as the leader of the Wild Hunt. He was always accompanied by two black ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Those helpers would listen, just like Zwarte Piet, at the chimney - which was just a hole in the roof at that time - to tell Wodan about the good and bad behaviours of the mortals.

Like a lot of folklore the story changes over time to suit those around as with the introduction of Zwarte Piet around 1845, as a slave helper for Sinterklaas. Slavery actually was abolished on all Dutch colonies in 1865.
Is this "political correctness" gone mad? Personally, without the intervention of political correctness, would mean the lack of women's rights, racial laws, anti-homophobic laws, just to state a few.
Would I want this festivity banned! NO, but the racial element should be removed. The mere fact that some people say, without Zwarte Piete would destroy this festivity is just ridiculous. After all, Zwarte Piet joined the band wagon of festivities at a later date and even prior to this was a couple of black ravens.

By Brit-Expat | 28 December 2011 11:26 AM

I must say the first time I saw a "Zwate Piet" I just thought, how racist is that? Innocent or not, it looks racist.

By Jayo | 28 December 2011 2:22 PM

@ Valentijn. Re different coloured faces, I saw that +/- 4 yrs back. Problem was the children were confused,they wanted to know where Piet was.
Piet is the one they come to see, not Sint.
We could argue all day that it's 'cos he behaves in a childish way etc.
But whether we like it or not, whether it's PC or not the kids love Piet.

I'm not a fan of Piet but I felt it needed pointing out.
If things are to change we need to find a way to do it without upsetting the children.

By Donaugh | 28 December 2011 4:02 PM

As a Dutch citezen having had Sinter Klaas and Zwarte Piet I never had at one time a predjudice thought. It was a holiday for kids no such thing as predjudice why do we have to let a few change everything. I am tired of all this political correctnes I better sign off before I do get predjudice.

By Hula-Babe | 28 December 2011 6:49 PM

Honestly "jayo", give us a break, its a tradition why should everyone be the same?you see more into it than it really is.
your so politically correct, relax, enjoy st nick for what it is... a children s celebration.
I heard recently that the smurfs were also politically in correct! where does it end.
whats next?

By jenny | 28 December 2011 11:15 PM

I was born in Holland, and grew up with the tradition, never ever did racism enter my mind with zwarte piet.
But remember racism goes both ways, the white people are called white trash, is that ok??
Just leave the tradition alone, if people who choose to live in Holland don't like it, leave!! i'm sure you all know where schiphol is??

By Marga | 28 December 2011 11:36 PM

It is demeaning and offensive to black people and it's time the Dutch reviewed this so-called tradition. If this is the only tradition they have left and are therefore desperately clinging on to, then that is a sad state to be in. What does it say of the Dutch society, if of all traditions they had, the only one they saw fit to keep on practicing is one that is so racially offensive? What this tradition does is to teach children that black people are meant to be servants. The dutch (white) children grow up thinking that's what blacks are meant to be and the black children grow up thinking that that's all they're good for.

By amollous | 29 December 2011 3:08 PM

Political correctness gone mad. I've lived here more than 30 years and never equated Zwarte Piet with racism. I also have many Surinam friends who are definitely NOT 'demeaned and offended' by the tradition. As someone above said - if you don't like it, you know where the door is.

By woods | 29 December 2011 4:34 PM

As I said in my comment above: " we tend to view the world through the lenses of our environment." The great grand children of current Dutch citizens will look back and say of Zwarte Piet "how could our grand parents celebrate such a thing which clearly stereotypes another ethnic group. What on earth were they thinking." Every society changes for the better. The Netherlands is no exception. Some societies however change slower than others.

By Zra My | 29 December 2011 5:17 PM

well all I can say is this, if you do not like this tradition, just leave and go back to where you came from.
Here in California this tradition is still celebrated in the Dutch school.
Black people always accuse White people of racism, but I have experienced racism from Black people.
I was a den mother when my son was in the boy-scouts. and the mothers of the black boy-scouts refused to work with me,just because I was not black, and maybe also because the Scout-leader who was black asked me to be the den mother. so you see there is also racism coming from Black people.

By ilse | 29 December 2011 5:50 PM

Silly, simple Marga. Just because you never considered a tradition 'bad', doesn't mean you cannot question it now?

I also hope all Americans question their genocide of Native Americans (make them squirm at their Thanksgiving feast too)!

Are you white Dutch? Then you have probably never experienced real discrimination. What would you think if a white medewerker called his black/equally qualified colleague 'Zwarte Piet'(slave) for a couple of weeks a year (as my friend has)?

We *expats* don't want to spoil this celebration for your & our children. We like it but: We want you -adults- to THINK! We want you to walk in another man's shoes, and agree Piet is not a slave but a positive figure. No charicatures/big lips/afro.

By osita | 29 December 2011 6:21 PM

Zwarte Piet apparently eminates from very long ago as a demon, from the times when religious groups would drive out demons from a village. Only later did the demon turn into a person.

By A nonny mouse | 30 December 2011 11:34 AM

It certainly would be interesting to see the Dutch reaction to an altered version of Sinterklaas.

How about make him a big, muscular Moroccan man, and his helpers blonde haired blue eyed Dutch wearing schoolgirl uniforms, dancing around Moroccan Sinterklass, happy to serve him...

Somehow I think that would not be so enthusiastically embraced by the Dutch.

By Perambulator | 31 December 2011 6:44 PM

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