Each year on 5 December, the Dutch celebrate the eve of Saint Nicholas. And each year in the Netherlands, a debate arises about the many black-faced, Afro-haired helpers who figure in the narrative of Sinterklaas, as locals call the white-bearded saint children have come to associate with gifts and sweets.
Those who say Zwarte Piet – which literally translates to ‘Black Pete’ – is a slave take offense to the perpetuation of a politically incorrect, if not downright racist, tradition. This year, an Amsterdam councilwoman told Dutch daily Het Parool that it was high time to say goodbye to Zwarte Piet. Meanwhile, others maintain that Zwarte Piet is a humorous character in a harmless fairytale. Some attribute his black face to travelling down many a chimney to bring children presents at home.