The Christian Science Monitor

Black Pete no more? Tide turning against Dutch Santa's blackfaced helper.

As children pour into this cobblestoned dockside neighborhood, they begin jamming to live Christmas music and charting Santa’s progress on a jumbotron at the annual party to celebrate the arrival of the man himself – Sinterklaas, as he’s known to Dutch speakers in Belgium and the Netherlands – and his faithful helper, Black Pete.

In the Dutch-speaking world, Santa arrives on the scene in mid-November, traveling from Spain where, according to legend here, he spends the off-season, eschewing Arctic climes. He makes the journey by steamboat with his assistant Pete, who is tasked with handing out presents to the good children and punishing the naughty – a job that kind-hearted Santa is loath to take on.

It’s a festive time that culminates this week in the feast of St. Nicholas, when children receive presents. Many of the tiny dancers here are dressed up like Pete in anticipation of the big day, complete with Renaissance-style sateen puffy caps topped with a feather, a nod to the aristocratic Spanish attire of the time. 

It’s a wholesome scene,

‘Simply no racial connotations whatsoever’Chimney Pete‘I woke up’More work to be done

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