The countdown to the Sinterklaas celebrations on December 5 officially kicked off on Saturday with the ‘arrival’ of St Nicholaas in the Drenthe town of Meppel.
Hundreds of children and their parents were at the quayside to watch Sinterklaas arrive in a small boat, accompanied by several Zwarte Piets.
This year the Zwarte Piet characters accompanying Sinterklaas did not have gold earrings or bright red lips, in a concession to the campaign for change. Opponents say Zwarte Piet, traditionally played by white people in blackface make-up, is racist.
Around 50 people campaigning for change to the character of Zwarte Piet also gathered in Meppel for a demonstration. They were kept away from the main gathering and there were no arrests, news agency ANP said.
The protestors said they had decided to go ahead with their protest despite the terror attacks in Paris. ‘To be honest, the whole event should have been cancelled,’ said campaigner Jerry Afriyie. ‘But we came here to show that we are supporting everyone who feels offended.’
The town council decided to press ahead with the festivities despite the attacks after reviewing security operations.
However, the Paris killings have had an effect on atmosphere, mayor Jeroen Kramer said. ‘You can tell that events in Paris have had a major impact on people,’ he said. ‘Our thoughts are with the relatives but we still want to make this a nice day.’
— Danielle Molenaar (@DanielleDvhN) November 14, 2015
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