Sinterklaas Is Coming To Town


Written by Siobhan Morrin
01 Wednesday 01st December 2010

It’s that time of year again, when shopping centres and department stores role out the fake snow, the plywood shed and convince the least cynical (or most gullible) staff member to stick on the elasticated beard and the polyester trim red suit, to entertain the hordes of kids, and hand out nothing more than a pat on the head each, due to Health and Safety.

What’s this got to do with me, you ask? I’m well past the age of magic and belief and that! Well, I daresay you are, but wouldn’t it be nice to re-live the days when an old man gave you presents, just for sitting on his knee? Hmmm...
If you thought that that was perverse, then wait til you hear what a Dutch Christmas tradition involves. Less jolly, more holy, Sinterklaas visits children on 5th December, giving out presents to those who’ve been good…more controversial is his assistant, Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) who hits the bad children with a stick and takes them away in a sack. One look at picture of the event reveals that controversy doesn’t lie in the beatings.

Zwarte Piet, played by white adults blacked-up, is a disturbing throwback to the colonial era. Shocking to UK eyes, many Dutch people don’t see the racist connotations the figure has, and somehow he is part of the celebrations every year.
This year though, he could be making an appearance closer to home, at the KK Outlet when Sinterklaas comes to visit. While it’s nice to celebrate different Christmas traditions, especially in multi-cultural London, this is one tradition that won’t go down well.
Surely the organisers will have realised this? Although the Dutch community is expected to be high in attendance, it is still taking place in the UK, where this kind of imagery has been consigned to history. Let’s hope Sinterklaas just brings the presents.

Read about Sinterklaas visiting the KK Outlet here.


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