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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

In the Netherlands and Belgium today, December 6, they are celebrating the arrival of Sinterklaas and is Moorish helper Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) arriving from Spain. Two years ago, when I was in Belgium, I was surprised and taken aback to see images of Black Pete. As one who took part in the civil rights struggle and has tried to always be politically correct with reference to all things "black", it was a shock to discover this much loved Moorish character that was the helper of Sinterklaas, the saintly bishop St. Nicholas. Black Pete is much loved by children in the Low Countries as he distributes candies and cookies and help Sinterklaase deliver gifts to every home.

Zwarte Piet (Black Pete)

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet.

Rather than try to explain to this holiday in Belgium and the Netherlands I thought I you share with you the explanation by a delightful young woman from Belgium in this video.

The share a little in the public celebration of this holiday watch this video of the procession in Utrecht. Enjoy!

In reading a little about this holiday I learned the Canada made a contribution toward it when Canadian soldiers after liberating the low countries they held a Sinterklaas celebration for the children with many Zwarte Pieten present.

"Originally Sinterklaas was only accompanied with one (or sometimes two) Zwarte Pieten, but just after the liberation of the Netherlands Canadian soldiers organized a Sinterklaas party with many Zwarte Pieten, and ever since this has been the custom, each Piet normally having its own dedicated task."


At 8:50 p.m., Blogger John and Carol said...

Thanks. A fascinating custom I had never heard of.

At 11:13 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

We had a friend (now deceased) who was born & grew up in Holland. He had a wonderful Sinterklaas costume, although he skipped the side-kick Black Pete.
He would scare the kids every Christmas -- kids here are unaccustomed to the Dutch traditions.

At 7:17 a.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I recently heard that some Canadian city is getting some flak over Zwarte Pieten, I think because it was a white guy in a black face. I'm not sure what I think of that. I mean, we have to be aware and respectful of minorities, but we also have to be aware of the history and context.

At 8:16 a.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

I love to learn about all the different ways that Santa is portrayed. Black Pete is a far cry from the elves that I grew up believing in. Like AC I'm a little bit in a quandry because I'd like to think it is a wonderful mix of the races; but then I remember how the blacks were portrayed here in the U.S. in the early 20th century as jesters, musicians, dancers, etc. and all to be laughed at !

At 11:08 a.m., Blogger Gattina said...

I have almost the same story on my blog today for Wordless Wednesday. As my son and family live in Amsterdam my one year old grandson had his first Sinterklaas.
We celebrate Christmas more and the French speaking part of Belgium too. Sinterklaas is typical Flemish.

At 10:23 a.m., Blogger Owen Gray said...

I've heard of the controversy -- probably because the character was in blackface.

More than that, all symbols need to be understood -- first and foremost -- from the perspective of the tradition which gave birth to them.

At 5:54 p.m., Blogger Lindsey said...

This was really interesting. I had never heard of Sinterklaas or Black Pete. I tried to watch the video but it would not load properly. I am surprised that it is not quite controversial now, maybe it is.


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