Black Peter: Dutch defend their tradition of blacking up at Christmas

United Nations says it will not interfere with Dutch festive custom of  people dressing up as Santa’s helper ‘Black Pete’

The Dutch custom of dressing up as one of Santa’s little helpers in black face paint and a curly wig is NOT racist, the UN has ruled.

Zwarte Piet – or Black Peter – helps Santa to deliver presents to children in early December according to Dutch tradition.

It is part of Holland‘s Christmas rituals for people to dress up as the mischievous character alongside Santa Claus.

But charges that the tradition is racist has led to a UN investigation.

However, Marc Jacobs, a member of the UN’s cultural arm UNESCO has now assured the Dutch it will not be interfering with their festivities.

A woman paints her face black as she dresses up as Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) during a demonstration in favor of the character, Saint-Nicholas' helper, at the Malieveld, in The Hague, The Netherlands,
A woman paints her face black as she dresses up as Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) during a demonstration in favor of the character, Saint-Nicholas‘ helper, at the Malieveld, in The Hague, The Netherlands,

A facebook page set up to defend Zwarte Piet – whose skin colour is explained to Dutch children today as coming from soot in the chimneys – has attracted a massive 2.1m’likes’ – one of the largest in Holland.

While an opposing group slamming the custom as racist has around 12,000 ‘likes’

The leader of the UN group set up to investigate the custom, Jamaican academic Verene Shepherd has spoken out against the practice on Dutch TV, condemning it as a ‘throw-back to slavery’.

The UN, alerted by anti-racism campaigners in Holland, wrote to the Dutch government earlier this year expressing concern that the the character was a ‘stereotyped image of African people as second class citizens.

The Dutch government has said it is aware that some people are offended by the character but Mrs Shepherd said: “The working group cannot understand why it is that people in the Netherlands cannot see that this is a throw-back to slavery, and that in the 21st century, this practice should stop.”

Mrs Shepherd’s committee is due to report next year.

Views – 98

One thought on “Black Peter: Dutch defend their tradition of blacking up at Christmas”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: