I’ve written previously about the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, and the move to abolish Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) by the forces of political correctness. Although they have survived the PC onslaught, in recent years Sinterklaas and Piet — along with the St. Martin lantern parades — have been attacked and harassed by gangs of immigrant youths.
But this year Sinterklaas Central is going to try something different. Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated a couple of Dutch articles about the latest variation in the Zwarte Piet tradition.
First, from RTL Nederland (note: in the article below, the word Pieten is the plural of Piet, or “Peter”):
“The way we do it, it is reasonably controllable”
Sinterklaas brings along Moroccan “Pieten”
For security reasons Sinterklaas is assisted by Moroccan Zwarte Pieten this year in Amsterdam.
According to chairman Van der Kroon of Amsterdam Sinterklaas Central [Sinterklaascentrale], this is the only way to keep things under control. In previous years there was often harassment by youngsters of Moroccan origin.
Van der Kroon says that the deployment of Moroccan Pieten works: “The Moroccan Piet then screams in Arabic to those young blokes that they must p*** off.”
In addition to the deployment of the Moroccan Pieten, the Sinterklaas Central always informs the police when a visit has to be paid to a difficult neighborhood. In order to be certain, some police officers or civil guards are keeping themselves prepared in the background.
“In the past children were afraid of you”
As old and wise as Sinterklaas [Santa Claus] may be, even he is getting short on solutions. Previously he and Piet were well able to save themselves from any situation by giving out a handful of spice nuts [perpernoten].
“But that does not work anymore,” says Henk van der Kroon (66), assistant Sinterklaas and chairman of Amsterdam Sinterklaas Central.
“When Sint and Piet are harassed by Moroccan street boys and they give them some spice nuts, they only want more and more. Just a matter of time until they rip the bag out of your hands. So we are not doing that anymore.”
Van der Kroon — after more than forty “delightful evenings” [heerlijk avondje, the evening of Sinterklaas] more than generous — is astonished at the way the spirit has changed over time. As chairman of the oldest and largest Sinterklaas Central of the country he knows best. Whoever might doubt the existence of a crisis of authority in the Low Countries needs only to listen to the stories from his — ever expanding — book [Sinterklaas, like Santa Claus, has a book with the names of all children and whether they were naughty or nice in the past year].
“In the past children were afraid of you, now they put you to the test. This is the main reason why it is increasingly difficult to find good Sinterklazen. We have 24 Sinterklazen out there now and it is far from enough. Nobody responds to advertisements. But it is also a very difficult job. You must have the feeling for it, behave decently, no drinking, no taking your beard off even though it is terribly itchy, must be able to act and stand a good deal. “
Ten years ago, in De Pijp [an immigrant neighborhood in Amsterdam] a Sinterklaas was attacked, and since then there has always been close contact between the police and Central. “The police want to do everything to prevent Sinterklaas from being beaten up.”
Moreover, he has Moroccan Pieten in service now, exactly how many he does not want to say. “They can say in their own language to those guys that they should p*** off. That works, because it concerns kids of 10, 11 years old. They see Sinterklaas as a Christian feast, but he has at the most a few Christian roots. In that respect Sinterklaas is just like the Easter Bunny. And so what? They have their Suikerfeest [Eid ul-Fitr]. Let them do their best with that, but I don’t have to celebrate that, do I? Let alone that I am going to ruin it! “
Roe [straw for hitting naughty children] and bag [the bag to bring really naughty children back to Spain where Sinterklaas lives] do not impress street kids anymore. “If we call that to them, they all say: Can I come along to Spain? Then even an experienced Sinterklaas stands there with a mouth full of teeth.”
VH adds this personal note:
My grandmother wouldn’t have believed her eyes if she’d seen dressed up Moors guarding the Sint against violent Moors! The scandal!