20 Nov Sinterklaas in Holland: Where is American Black Pete?
I wish I could say this was a joyous weekend. I wish I could say that the children of the Netherlands were enthralled with happiness. But I can’t.
Today was a dark day in Holland, a dark day indeed. For the children were robbed of the experience of an American Pete.
If you are playing catch up in the employment saga, our
laughable imbecile hero had tried to mix it up from one of last year’s seasonal odd jobs – hawking holiday cheer as a Christmas Tree Holiday Sales Associate – to something more festive, namely to secure a role as a Black Pete during Sinterklaas in Holland. SinterKlaas is a holiday in the Netherlands (somewhat similar to Christmas in America) where a white man with a white beard (Sinterklaas) arrives by boat to Holland on a white steed on December 5th to bring merriment and presents to mostly children. However, unlike the American mythology, there are some derivatives. Namely,
He comes from Spain (not the North Pole), instead of being a champion of obesity by gorging on genetically modified cookies by the mantle, children are encouraged to bribe his horse with carrots and water in their clogs, and instead of a sweat shop of elves (dwarves) slaving away with all the gift details, Sinterklaas’s servants are Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes, originating in
Now of course, like any joyous and worthwhile holiday meant for children, there is a shit cauldron of controversy. I don’t want to get bogged down in the debate of whether the Black Petes are a symbol of historical racial servitude, because after all, it’s not like Dutch history is long with racially based suppressive colonial rule. Nay – the Black Petes are in fact black because of all the soot from the chimneys they crawl down to deliver the gifts to children, just like in Mary Poppins. However, I am a little bit suspicious how every single one of them has jheri curls, rosy red lips and an aptitude for dance. But you be the judge.
Despite the controversy of the day for some, it still is a fun filled day. Sinterklaas himself arrives by barge waving to crowds of adoring fans and families.
However, actually seeing Sinterklaas on this day is not as straight forward as it would seem. As the entire canal is 7 rows deep with freakishly tall Dutch people with there soon to be freakish tall children on their shoulders. So if you wish to actually see the Klaas, you better come 3 hours early or bring stilts.
And then you can see them do some dancing or throw out some candy or other aerobics.
But it is important to know that there are many types of Petes. There are Petes that handle the logistics, ones that handle the present giving, horse
shit picker upper maintenance Pete – a Pete for every occasion. For example,
So in the end, am I a little bit sad I didn’t get to be a Black Pete? Of course, but like any mature adult, I am more disappointed for the children, and frankly, a little bit disappointed with the Dutch volunteer planning committee for their short-sighted view of the economics of it in this tough economy. For the price of a womanizing Pete, a creepy Pete, an asshole Pete, and a drunk Pete, they could have had the all in one package: an American Pete.