zwart piet

Dutch people black-up every Christmas for this controversial tradition

Every Christmas, Dutch people black up and put on afro wigs to dress as ‘Black Peter’; Santa Claus’ black helper.

During the run up to the Feast of St Nicholas on the 5th of December people dress up as ‘ Zwarte Pieten ‘ in parades, public events and parties. The blacked-up character visits schools, shops and other places during the celebration.

The celebrations are controversial as many consider that white people blacking up and wearing an afro wigs to be racist. There are often marches from both sides, people who want to ban it and some people from the extreme right who want to keep the tradition.

The origin of Black Peter comes from a children’s book written in the 1850s which featured a black servant who helped St Nicholas (Santa Klaus).

Illustration from Jan Schenkman’s book Sint Nikolaas en zijn Knecht


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