Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan files a report on the latest controversy over Black Pete to engulf The Netherlands, this one instigated by the United Nations.
The UN wants to ban Santa!
by H. Numan
Yes, the United Nations really wants to ban Santa. Not the American one living on the North Pole, mind you. But the original Santa from Holland. You may not know that the Dutch celebrate a very different Santa: Saint Nicolas, or in Dutch Sinterklaas.
In a nutshell, below is the Dutch version. Somewhere in the 18-19th century, the festival crossed the North Sea to England, where it became Santa Claus, and later on to America as the Santa you know so well.
This festival predates the US Santa by many centuries. The Dutch celebrated Sinterklaas from medieval times onwards. Not on 25 December, but on the evening of 5 December, which precedes the saint’s birthday on 6 December. The Dutch festival is primarily a children’s festival, celebrated within the family. Often Saint Nicolas pays the family a visit praising the good children and admonishing the bad ones.
The arrival of Saint Nicolas is broadcasted on national television, with huge crowds greeting him. The Dutch Santa is a smart guy: he doesn’t live at the North pole, but in a palace in Spain. He is centuries old, and doesn’t have a sleigh with reindeer. He rides on a white horse over the rooftops, with his faithful servant Black Pete walking next to him carrying a big bag with goodies to be dropped down the chimney.
Children place their shoe in front of the fireplace (nowadays the central heating system), with a carrot for the horse and a bowl of water. The next day they often find small gifts or candy in it, with the carrot and water gone.
Traditionally Santa arrives on a steamboat from Spain on the second Saturday of November. How he gets back nobody knows… His arrival is greeted with cheers of joy, but nobody has ever seen him leave.
Right after the war, the authorities asked for support from Allied troops in Holland to make the festival possible once more. Remember: the occupied parts of the Netherlands had suffered tremendously under German occupation, including mass starvation. The Allied troops of course helped, but they found one Black Pete not enough. They wanted lots of Black Petes. This was a great success, and from 1945 onwards Santa has lots and lots of Black Petes helping him out and clowning around.
Before the war, Black Pete (only one) carried a bundle of twigs to beat naughty children, and carried the really bad ones in his bag — now empty of gifts — back to Spain. Where they were to toil in the marzipan groves for a year as punishment. Nowadays Black Pete is an amiable person, no longer a bogeyman. He still carries that bundle of twigs, though.
And now comes the racist problem: the Dutch Santa doesn’t have elves to do the work. He has Moorish servants to do that, named Black Pete (Zwarte Piet). Before World War Two the Saint only had one servant. It never was a slave, always a servant or companion or just a friend helping the old man out.
You already guessed it: this is not politically correct. Black Pete is a white person with a blackened face and bright red lips, like a black minstrel. Left-wing activist have been busy the last couple of years trying to enforce their political views on society, often by bullying and other means. Most Dutch get really tired of this, especially for this beloved festival. A few years back left-wing activists tried to disturb the arrival of Saint Nicolas, and had to be protected by the police against the furious crowd.
Very often some (not a lot) people from Suriname also join the protests. They want compensation for slavery, which was abolished only recently, in 1863. That’s a mere 150 years ago. Good reason to claim compensation. No they don’t want money, they want … well, it’s just a matter of principle really, …. Not money, but … no idea, to be honest. Just pay; cough up some dough. And make that a lot of dough, thank you very much.
This year the politically correct went one step further. They went to the United Nations and accused The Netherlands of being racist. The UN responded as you might expect: they immediately set up a commission to investigate this virulent abuse of humanity. They sent a certain Ms. or Comrade Verene Shepherd (from Jamaica) to chair this commission. Comrade Shepherd immediately made a statement dressed like a parodial black women on Mardi Grass that she will unbiased investigate this sordid affair. However, she had already concluded that this serious racial abuse must be banished immediately. The silly idea of having two Santas! One is enough! She urged the Dutch government to banish it immediately.
(Note: the Dutch only very recently started to celebrate Santa on Christmas. This was promoted by commerce and has not really caught on as yet. Dutch children certainly do not believe in Santa on Christmas.)
As politically correctness is the order of the day, nobody finds this statement rather questionable. It’s like the president of the US dressing up as Uncle Tom with a banjo on his back saying: “Y’all listen up: Trayvon Martin could have been mah boy. But don’t worry, honkies. I’ll investigate this fair and square.”
Dutch language news sources:
A few years ago politically correct sentiment tried multicolored Petes. Green, yellow, orange, red — any color but black. The cover story was that the steamboat had sailed through the rainbow, thus coloring all Black Petes. This was widely rejected nationwide. There was so much outcry over it that the Black Petes were recolored black the very next day.
The sentiment that Santa is racist really only lives in a tiny minority, found mostly in Amsterdam. (Usually on the dole of state benefits in squatted apartments.) I really feel sad that people go so far in indoctrinating a nation in political correctness.
You might be interested to hear that a similar Black Minstrel has been placed on the UN cultural heritage list. This is an Iranian Black Pete. Nope, this has nothing to do with double standards or ‘we white people really hate white people’.
- See: De Telegraaf