Today, admittedly during working hours, I scanned the headlines of news website nieuws.nl when I came across a picture that startled me. Quickly, I changed to another tab – I did not want my colleagues to see this picture on my screen at work!
In the past days the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas has been criticised more severely than ever, or so it seems. The discussion culminated in the involvement of the United Nations a few days ago. U.N. reporters apparently received information that the tradition of Sinterklaas is in essence racist, and that Zwarte Piet, stupid and a servant, feeds the stereotype of Africans as second class citizens. Dutch citizens, activated by explicit racial accusations and demands to abolish their much-loved tradition, somewhat to my surprise revolted. Online petitions received hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’. Maurice de Hond, mostly known as a the most important ‘pollster’ about elections in the Netherlands, reported that a staggering 92% of Dutch people says that there is nothing to worry about, that there is no racism involved, and that it’s just about a great feast for children. Similarly, De Telegraaf (a Dutch newspaper) surveyed 5.000 people, finding similar conclusions.
I don’t wish to reiterate all the points one can find in public discussions; I do however want to make 3 points:
- The tradition is already lost: A prediction
- The tradition is already lost: The influence of current discussions on future celebrations
- The U.N. – WTF?!
At December 5th, Siji Jabbar published an article in the online Guardian on the Dutch (and Belgian) phenomenon of Zwarte Piet, which literally translates to “Black Pete”. Zwarte Piet is an important, indispensable part of the feast of Sinterklaas, which is celebrated in the Netherlands every year around 5 December, and from which many Christmas traditions, most notably Santa Claus (observe the etymology), have evolved. Mr Jabbar’s article is despicable, generalising, offending, uninformed – utterly ridiculous. Continue reading