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Gedetailleerde verkopersbeoordelingen informatie is niet beschikbaar wanneer er minder dan 10 beoordelingen zijn.. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet have become annual household names for Dutch families, not only in the Netherlands but also in Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. What is the history of these commonly accepted figures before they became part of collective Dutch tradition, leading to present-day controversy? Despite the strong, enduring tradition of the St Nicholas feast throughout the ages, there were talks of abolishing the festival around the year 1840 (Helsloot 2008,97). Considering what is already known about the origins of the St Nicholas feast, it seems that the controversy surrounding Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet actually is a problem of the present- not a problem of the past.
One could say that the Sinterklaas feast is again in crisis, as it was in the 1840s, before Zwarte Piet entered the stage. Great article, it’s nice to read a more objective approach than what is heard the last week. Actually I dare say, Zwarte Pieten are the most positive rolemodels for coloured people that I know of! It’s a pity for the individual coloured person that felt bad throughout his childhood, but I heard a lot of opinions of other coloured people, saying that they have no problem at all with Zwarte Piet. Children really have no idea whatever tradition you feed them…i do not think that is a valid argument. This tradition has changed a lot over the many centuries, it is in fact even much older than 500 years. I believe that black people genuinly feel that black Pete is a continuation of a stigma that some of them are confronted with on a daily basis. Over the last decade, popular media has shown an unprecedented interest in history (Lynch 2011, 110).
In 1968 the traditional festival already got criticized by some, like Mrs. Grunbauer, who claimed that the figure of Zwarte Piet implicitly upheld backward ideas about black men being slaves (Helsloot 2009, 79). The German Christmas tradition was spreading, and pamphlets were issued in 1850 stating that the Christmas tree was more important than Saint Nicholas (2008, 98). Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet have become dramatis personae who go through all kinds of adventures every year- their stories are publicly told through TV series, films, schoolplays, books and songs, and privately enacted within family households. Schenkman has not directly linked Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas with slavery, nor is it mentioned anywhere that Zwarte Piet is a slave (Helsloot 2008, 95). To the ones who have made up their minds on who Zwarte Piet is and what he conveys: who do you think you are?
As an expat I must be prepared to explain Dutch traditions to incredulous foreigners and this is very helpful indeed.


To me as a modern, dutch woman it seems almost impossible that someone is offended to the modern Zwarte Piet. These stories are loved by the children and are depicting Zwarte Pieten as humans, with their good and bad sides. They are clever, funny, creative, helpful, silly, musical naughty, sportive and like every one in Holland, they respect Sinterklaas because he stands for the elderly, the wise. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. The Amsterdam city government received over a twenty written objections against the organized celebration of the arrival of Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten on November 17, an annually celebrated tradition preceding the Sinterklaas festivities of December 5th (BinnenlandsBestuur 2013). In 2004 the BBC launched a series called Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) on celebrities who trace their ancestry and discover the stories of their families against the backdrop of national history. Their critiques did not receive large-scale support; the majority of Dutch people viewed the Sinterklaas festival as an old tradition that did not have anything to do with the suppression or discrimination of black people.
It is unsure if this Nicholas ever really existed, but according to legend he was born in Patara in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) in 270, and died on December 6th in 343. In the recurring controversy within the Netherlands surrounding the figure of Zwarte Piet, protesters maintain that his imagery is racist and that it refers to slavery. Although the Dutch were involved in slavery through the VOC and WIC since the 16th century until official abolishment in 1863, the practice or system of owning slaves was officially forbidden on actual Dutch soil throughout these times (Boerhout et al 2012).
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet as created in the 1850 Schenkman book were two imagined dramatic characters that were called to life in order to reignite a dying St Nicholas tradition. I quite enjoyed Sinterklaas and still do, despite the fact that Zwarte Piet, and to some extent De Sint himself, have not been part of my Sinterklaas celebrations for at least ten years.
In a public hearing on October 17, the council will take the arguments of the protesters into consideration. The show was a huge success and has resulted in multiple spin-offs in other countries (2011, 111). Forty-five years later, the discussion has not intrinsically changed – on the one hand there are still those who maintain the racist essence of Zwarte Piet, on the other hand there still is the mainstream notion that the Sinterklaas festival is an innocent tradition that should not be viewed within the context of the history of slavery. Because of the wondrous stories about his work as a bishop, he was declared a saint and the first church was devoted to him in 550 Constantinople.
The imagery of Schenkman’s work lives on every year when hundreds of Dutch people dress up as Sinterklaas in bishop-clothes including the miter, wig and white beard, or as Zwarte Piet including the page clothes, hat and black paint.
The aforementioned, and the fact that Zwarte Piet is depicted wearing shoes, makes it highly probable that Zwarte Piet as created by Schenkman was a free man (2008, 95). The evolving controversies arise from disagreements about what Dutch people collectively think of the Sinterklaas festival and how they perceive the roles of Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas in the present.


There might be a slow de-popularization of the festival and it will eventually burn out altogether.
So far, I see absolutely no problem why not embrace this long, long tradition that gives every child, small or big, a smile in december! One can perceive the success of the WDYTYA show in the light of a bigger movement where people are investigating personal and collective histories in search of their (national) identities. Zwarte Pieten can be white people who paint themselves black, but this is not necessarily so. The way in which Zwarte Piet is pictured, including his costume and tights, might be inspired by the tradition of 17th and 18th century paintings of Dutch men with black servants, as was pointed out by art historian Eugenie Boer in 1993 (Helsloot 2012, 9). Helsloot (1996) has pointed out that people become more aware of issues of national identity in times of crisis or rapid economic, social or cultural transformations (263). The celebrations of Sinterklaas in Curacao (Kingdom of the Netherlands) also exemplify that black people use black paint to dress up as Zwarte Piet (Drayer 2013). The problem entirely lies within who we think Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet are; some imagine them as a colonial representation of unbalanced racial power relations that should be left in the past, others imagine them as intrinsic characters to Dutch national tradition that need to be preserved for the future. But it seems that now that the Netherlands have less culturally homogenous, some white people fear of losing their identity if we let traditions change with the culture. This article briefly explores the origins of the Sinterklaas tradition and the ongoing controversy that lives in its shadow. Under the growing influence of Protestantism, the devotion of Saint Nicholas was repressed in the 16th and 17th century. Besides introducing a helper to the Sinterklaas story, Schenkman also introduced a steamboat and even a hot air balloon that allowed Sinterklaas and his helper to take off at the end of the story (Neuskens 2012).
Although scholars have speculated where he might have gotten his inspirations, there are no documents that explain Schenkman’s motives for the inclusion of a black man, or why he was dressed the way he was. I believe these people feel this fear genuinly and that there might be a lack of comprehension among black people about this fear. Inherited folklore is an important part of this shared experience that creates a sense of identity. Was he inspired by the knights and servants from ‘Ivanhoe’, as argued by Van Benthem (Helsloot 2012b)? Or was the black servant introduced to add some fashionable ‘Oriental’ spice to the Sinterklaas legend (Van Benthem 2012)?




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