The official arrival of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands on Saturday will take place at a fictional location this year, as coronavirus puts paid to the traditional welcome parade.
Broadcaster NTR, which always shows the arrival live on television, has opted for a non-existing village, and built it into the storyline which is being revealed this week in children’s news show Sinterklaas journaal.
St Nicholas will now arrive in Zwalk (‘Roam’) by steam boat and will be welcomed by its mayor Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, host of the former television show De Wereld Draait Door. Van Nieuwkerk has already warned there will be no shaking of hands but it is not clear if elbow bumping will be considered as a dignified way to greet the bishop.
Like last year, the saint’s helpers, or Piets, will have sooty faces rather than blackface makeup. NTR has been phasing out the deeply controversial blackface figure since 2014.
The arrival of Sinterklaas will be broadcast on Saturday at 12pm on NPO Zapp. The arrival kicks off three weeks of festivities in the run up to December 5, when the Dutch traditionally exchange gifts and poems.
Many cities have already cancelled their own Sinterklaas parades because of the coronavirus regulations.
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