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Sinterklaas is back in the Netherlands

Sunday 18 November 2012

sinterklaas.jpg Sinterklaas with princess Maxima and her daughters in Roermond. Photo: Novum

An estimated 50,000 people were in the Limburg town of Roermond on Saturday to witness the official arrive of Sinterklaas – marking the start of the three-week countdown to the main Dutch present-giving celebration on December 5.

A further 1.7 million people watched the arrival of the Sint from Spain on television. It was the 61st time the ‘arrival’ of St Nicholas has been a formally-organised event, Nos television said.

This year, there were no reports of any protests about Zwarte Piet, St Nicholas’ controversial black helpers.

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

Spending

Although the official arrival is shown live on television, other cities and towns also organise their own events.

In IJmuiden, a local council-organised Sinterklaas arrival was partly disrupted by the discovery of a body in the water.

Meanwhile, a report by ING economists at the weekend shows a sack of traditional Sinterklaas presents has largely escaped inflation.

Although the retail price index has gone up by 2.9%, dvds have gone down 4.2% in price and books 2%. Sweets are 0.4% cheaper than a year ago. Toys are 1.2% more expensive and perfume has risen 1.7% in price.

Austerity

Research last week by the Q&A research group showed 20% of households think the government’s austerity measures will have an impact on their Sinterklaas celebrations this year.

The researchers say just under half (49%) of Dutch households plan to celebrate Sinterklaas, continuing the downward trend of the past few years.

Reboot Sinterklaas

Are you planning to celebrate Sinterklaas? Share your thoughts using the comment box below.

© DutchNews.nl



 

Readers' Comments

I cant stand Zwarte Piet so offensive to my senses.

By m | 19 November 2012 8:08 AM

jeeez, is that guy blacked up!?!?! whaat??

By moose | 19 November 2012 8:20 AM

Thats how we do it in Holland. As long as "we don't mean in it that way" then it cant possibly be offensive to anyone and those who are offended are either over reacting or have not intergrated well enough.

By Tamara | 19 November 2012 10:45 AM

Sinterklaas is the one time of the year when people can get back at each other for past wrongs by writing insulting poems and hiding presents in layers of gunk. It's great fun

By T vanden Berg | 19 November 2012 11:08 AM

Well said, Tamara.

By Cal | 19 November 2012 11:30 AM

Yes it can be offensive, Tamara. Welcome to the global village; what happens in the Netherlands doesn't necessarily STAY in the Netherlands. And some Dutch are offended by it too, so you don't speak for everybody.

By CW | 19 November 2012 12:49 PM

Like Tamara says, "Thats the way we do it in Holland". If the rest of the world doesn't like it, well tough. It is tradition that we are not likely to scrap just to please the rest of the world.

Perhaps Moose would like to come to Holland or look on the internet you-tube at the celebrations. Even black men join in and no offence is either given or taken.

By Karl H | 19 November 2012 12:53 PM

At my daughter's daycare they are planning on doing face painting on the kids. I have refused to make my child take part in something so distasteful that make others feel uncomfortable. Infact on the day she will not be going be attending.

By no | 19 November 2012 1:08 PM

Maybe thats the reason why dutch gals are attracted to black guys cos they think they are cute zwarte piets.

By ufo | 19 November 2012 3:03 PM

living in The Netherlands for a year was a memorable experience..joining the "natives" in celebrating the holidays was most enjoyable..i LOVED seeing Sinterklaas and Piet..and joined our neighbors for that special night.

By Jim Yatman | 19 November 2012 5:20 PM

Sinterklaas is a strange time of year where we have this bizarre situation where many Dutch folk can't seem to see how offensive it is to most people to see 'blacked up' people. My dutch friends who are usually so open and relaxed get very threatened when you suggest that it is racist. But it is. Us buitenlanders are not wanting to diminish Dutch traditions but it is time NL woke up nd saw this through the eyes of the rest of the world where it is just plain offensive.

By esg | 19 November 2012 5:22 PM

For all dutchies backing up Tamara: see the wikipedia page on irony and sarcasm

By Chan Chur | 19 November 2012 11:18 PM

Zwarte Piet offensive? But what if Sinterklas was zwarte and his helper (Z. Piet) was also zwarte, and the audience was all white? Offended, anybody?

Nest year, Piet should be Green Piet. Then let's see how many green rights people complain.

Would Sinterklaas time still be fun if Piet were the same skin colour as the majority residents of the Netherlands? Probably. And then he would just be Sinterklaas' helper, "Piet." :--D

In Italy they have La Befana who comes on 12th Night (Feast of the Epiphany.) La Befana is an old --- like 90 years old, very wrinkled, shrunken, etc.--- witch. Nobody calls the Italians "Ageists" because of her.

By Cristoforo | 20 November 2012 12:19 AM

Surely you're being ironic, aren't you Tamara? Please say yes. Otherwise "How we do it" means no self-examination, no progress, and "integration" is just a euphemism for "take it or leave it--we're proud of our imperialistic and oppressive history."

By brent | 20 November 2012 4:47 AM

@esg: there is nothing wrong on wearing black makeup as much as there is nothing wrong in going to a costume party dressed as some Asian character. It is harmless fun, only people with personal self-esteem issues would cry racism on Zwart Pieter at this day and age.

By Andre L. | 20 November 2012 9:28 AM

I was discussing Zwarte Piet with a Dutch friend and while I find it uncomfortable (reminds me of the Black and White Minstrel show) my friend claimed it was no worse than selling Golliwog dolls in the UK. I'm trying to think when I last saw one of those dolls anywhere.

By Darren | 20 November 2012 9:36 AM

Celebrated Sinterklaas several times in Lagos, Nigeria. Not one of my Nigerian friends feels offended, they all like Zwarte Piet.

By Han | 20 November 2012 10:16 AM

The US Santa Claus is more racist than the Dutch Sinterklaas. Ever noted how Santa and his Elves are conspiciously Caucasian? There is not one character resembling an African-American among them. So enjoy your All-White-Fest with Santa and then have the nerve to complain about Dutch Sinterklaas traditions being "racist".

Zwarte Piet iconographically has a very complex origin. Those suggesting that he is African or a "slave" are ignorant of the true origins of this iconography.
Zwarte Piet is an amalgam of various different iconographies. In its roots, Zwarte Piet stands for The Devil (and Sinterklaas for Christianity subjugating evil), not for a person of African origin.

By Marco | 20 November 2012 12:48 PM

The US Santa Claus is more racist than the Dutch Sinterklaas. Ever noted how Santa and his Elves are conspicuously Caucasian? There is not one character resembling an African-American among them. So enjoy your All-White-Fest with Santa and then have the nerve to complain about Dutch Sinterklaas traditions being "racist".

Zwarte Piet iconographically has a very complex origin. Those suggesting that he is African or a "slave" are ignorant of the true origins of this iconography.
Zwarte Piet is an amalgam of various different iconographies. In its roots, Zwarte Piet stands for The Devil (and Sinterklaas for Christianity subjugating evil), not for a person of African origin.

By Marco | 20 November 2012 12:51 PM

@esg: you say "My dutch friends [...] get very threatened when you suggest that it is racist"... I think the problem is more general. Dutch people get very threatened if you criticize ANY aspect of their country, which is the key problem here in my view (a total lack of self-critique seems a national habit). And to all supporting Tamara, I believe her comment was clearly sarcastic, else "we don't mean in it that way" would not have been in ""... it didnt even cross my mind to take it literally...

By the_expat | 20 November 2012 3:25 PM

@Tamara. Well said. And those objecting need to do some research into the history of Sint (Saint Nicholas)whose 'helpers' were Moors (not slaves) and, surprise surprise, Moors are black. None of my black friends object, so why should you expats who will eventually go back to your countries of origin anyway, where you will no doubt participate in equally (by others' standards) non-pc traditions.

By woods | 20 November 2012 4:00 PM

At my daughter's daycare they are planning on doing face painting on the kids. I have refused to make my child take part in something so distasteful that make others feel uncomfortable. Infact on the day she will not be going be attending.By no | November 19, 2012 1:08 PM_____________I'm sure your child will be eternally grateful that you have made her look like a fool in front of her classmates,

By woods | 20 November 2012 4:02 PM

"the_expat" is sort of right I am afraid. I am Dutch and live abroad.
The Dutch by and large feel they are a highly very tolerant bunch and 'ahead of the pack' on many issues (weed, gay marriage, euthanasia, women's rights, stability pacts, you name it). But what they are unfortunately not is willing to truly listen to and understand other's points of view on any of these issues.

By bads | 20 November 2012 4:11 PM

There were lots of Zwarte Piets in Amsterdam on Sunday, nice friendly people handing out tiny cinnamon cookies. I wonder if any were actually of African extraction?

By sam | 20 November 2012 4:37 PM

Sheesh! To the complainers: Get a life! While y'all's at it, look at a map and recognize that NL is a very small country with relatively few people and a paucity of global impact. Grow up!

By Drawer 22 | 20 November 2012 4:42 PM

It's funny: when someone refuses to hire black people, he's racist (something I of course fully agree with, if skin color's really the reason), but if sinterklaas's employees are black, then it's suddenly also racist?

By Someone | 20 November 2012 5:49 PM

If there is no problem with this event and black people take part as well, then why don't black people play the part of Piet? It would save a lot of money on make-up and help with integration.

By Me | 21 November 2012 8:31 AM

I would pay good money to see a Dutch person black themselves up and walk around The Bronx, Soweto or Moss Side. See if it harmless fun then.

By Roy | 21 November 2012 8:53 AM

@By Me:"If there is no problem with this event and black people take part as well, then why don't black people play the part of Piet? ..." Great idea. Why not? @Drawer22: "Sheesh! To the complainers: Get a life! While y'all's at it, look at a map and recognize that NL is a very small country with relatively few people and a paucity of global impact. Grow up!" Though Holland is a small country, it has the 16th largest economy of the world,which relies heavily on foreign trade. It is a founding member of the EU, OECD and the WTO. So, no, it has no impace on the world views at all.

By maria | 21 November 2012 9:13 AM

I love this cultural imperialism by those who claim to be standing up for minorities. How about make the Dutch change their language too, and expunge the word "kunt" in case it offends English speakers...

By Another Me | 21 November 2012 11:48 AM

My firend Tine's father was a black man from Suriname. He often played the part of Zwarte Piet in Amsterdam, and made a tidy sum of money doing so.

By Amerkaanse | 21 November 2012 10:57 PM

I have lived in the US for more than 40 yrs and have celebrated this holiday with friends and fam. that many yrs.... Every one loves it and gets a kick out of the poems and crazy ,silly tricks. Painting faces, goofy presents??? never been a problem. Let's keep this great celebration alive .. and tone the commercialism for Christmas down. We'll all be better of!

By marianna | 27 November 2012 3:13 AM

Like Tamara says, "Thats the way we do it in Holland". If the rest of the world doesn't like it, well tough.

We are a proud country of white people with a colonial past we are very proud of, and everybody should know it.

By Chris F | 29 November 2012 9:52 PM

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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