Hey Kids, here comes Piet!


 Here’s an interesting piece about a foreigner’s take on the “Sinterklaas” tradition in Holland. Which sorry to say, is in SERIOUS need of a cultural update to say the least. 

As someone who was married to a Dutchie for more than a decade, I came to know the whole holiday and tradition with more immersion than I ever cared for. While I thought the gag gift-giving and funny poems had its share of entertainment value, that’s about as far as it went.

I had already been exposed to the whole disturbing St. Nick/Zwarte Piet thing, even before my then-wife told me about it. This was on account of having a Dutch girlfriend prior to her. Even then, long before the out of control “politically correct” movement was even in conception, I found the whole “Zwarte Piet” thing disturbing. What I found even more disturbing, however, were the reactions of most Dutch people with whom I discussed this apparently very touchy topic. They seemed to take offense to the general non-Dutch observation, that a major character in their celebration represented a black slave, was somehow improper or disrespectful. A slave who was no less beholden to his Turkish/Greek master ( depending on what version of St. Nick you believe, who according to the founding Dutch folklore, resided in Spain?). It would be one thing if he was some native patron saint of Holland. But geez, St. Nick wasn’t even close to being Dutch.

My ex-wife constantly tried to gloss over Piet’s “blackness” with the same spiel as well, as noted in the piece. That Piet’s “blackness” was from going down the chimneys, and getting covered in soot. To which I’d just roll my eyes in utter disbelief. Kids may rationalize crap like that when they’re at that impressionable age. Reasoning adults really should not.

It’s one thing that the silliness of Christmas, and all the misguided bullshit associated with it, still somehow persists on any global scale at all. Especially in this day and age. It’s entirely another to compound it with a celebration of perhaps a historical low point. What’s more one that waxes nostalgically, even implicitly, back to its glorious days of slave trading. Worse, with a really lame alibi and cheesy backstory to somehow give it a pass in the modern-day.

Having close Dutch friends to this day, and still retaining strong ties to a country I’ve come to love and feel at home in, doesn’t keep me from agreeing with the writer and her summation. Nor with the Antillean protester she mentions in the story. They are right. The Dutch as a people are clearly progressive enough to culturally move forward from this. Forward from what is clearly a divisive and insulting tradition, whose time has LONG since passed. Political correctness, which I typically abhor, has nothing to do with it. It’s clearly time for the Dutch to get that. In fact, like most ridiculous religious-based traditions, it’s long past due. They as a people and a country have been able to elevate themselves with real progress, in virtually every other sphere of their culture and society. Despite their shoddy colonial history and closet skeletons. There should be no exception allowed here. Especially in order to preserve a silly, contrived and disturbingly obnoxious holiday tradition.

On the other hand, they can stick to their “Piets” on this in arrogant cultural defiance. They can choose to remain a subject of ridicule, at least in this instance, by the rest of the relatively reasoned modern world. 

Which, by the way, just for the record, is my country’s job. Let’s get that straight.

In Holland, Santa Doesn’t Have Elves. He Has Slaves.

The racist Christmastime tradition Dutch people have begun fighting about. By Jessica Olien
|Posted Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, at 3:25 PM ET

As a newcomer to the Netherlands, I do many things wrong. I forget to bring gifts to dinner parties, I thank people too profusely, and often speak too personally with people I’ve just met. But no slip-up has provoked a more troubled response than when I’ve brought up my concerns about Santa Claus. Read On…


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