Love it or hate it, the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas has taken over the city of Amsterdam. Today was the big parade, where Sinterklaas and his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten, march across the city from the Amstel to Liedseplein. While the official parade took off today, the actual gift giving won’t happen until December 5th. Sinterklaas travels from Spain with his helpers, and distributes gifts to the children of the netherlands. The obvious controversy about “his helpers” is that they are white people who don black face. The Dutch have tried to calm some of the backlash against this obviously radicalized display, by claiming that the Zwarte Pieten have black faces because they travel down the chimney and become covered in soot. However, this obviously doesn’t explain the red lips and the afros.
With the racial element aside, the holiday does have a lot of heartwarming attributes. Families line up all along the city with their children to watch the parade, and ask the Pieten to give them candy. The Pieten hand out Kruidnoten, which is a type of gingerbread, and the kids scream and wave their arms to try and get their attention so they can have as many cookies as possible. People from all different ethnicities came out to the parade, and it was clear that above all, this holiday is about Dutch pride and heritage. I don’t agree with the portrayal of Zwarte Pieten, and I think it could be easily rectified by ditching the black face; but the Dutch are very passionate about preserving their holiday.
It is definitely something you should see in your lifetime, it is a very interesting event. Im glad I got a chance to watch it, even if I don’t agree with all of the elements of the holiday.