Dutch Santa Has a Sidekick Named Black Pete Because #Racism [WTF Friday]

Just when you thought you discovered every random holiday tradition there is to know, here we go again with a Christmas legend that will make your head spin. In the Netherlands and Belgium, Saint Nicholas’ feast is held on December 6th and is celebrated with parades where candies are passed out to entertain children. But where would St. Nick be without his right hand man, Zwarte Piet (dutch for Black Peter)?

Well, legend has it that St. Nick liberated a slave named Pete, and from that point on Pete decided to work as a servant for St. Nick. He now accompanies him on his holiday tour, giving presents to good children. You can probably spot him at a parade if you are in The Netherlands or other Dutch communities, too–he’ll be a white man with a face painted black and a curly afro wig. What could be more festive than Santa’s sidekick wearing blackface?

While many action groups are targeting the tradition for its racist overtones, The Netherlands and Belgium insist that the young Peter would not be the same if his skin was any other color. And apparently, the festivities cannot go on without the help of St. Nick’s wingman. So… what will it be, cancel the holidays or indulge in a fairly offensive tradition? I guess that’s a really tough call.



  1. Sophia says:

    it's offensive, period! These people are just disgusting… This is not the only dutch kid's story that is racist. I would be ashamed to ever live on Northern Europe…

    1. KVDL says:

      We are not disgusting look at your own country first because I can assure you that it is not perfect

    2. WBB says:

      Enlighten me, what are the other stories?
      Also, generalizing Dutch people much?

  2. WBB says:

    Dutch girl reporting for duty. There have been plenty of debates on this topic here in Holland, but they've died down mostly because we're all just so tired of discussing it. A lot of Dutch people defend the tradition by saying Zwarte Piet is black because of descending down the chimneys (which is also why a song goes 'zwart als roet', translating to black as soot), which obviously is a lame defense but hey… Truth is I don't really know where I stand in this debate, because children don't learn to see it as slavery. I know I never did. Mostly I just wanted to comment because you don't see articles about my home country that often.

    1. Lily says:

      I have to agree with WBB. As a Dutch girl I have never linked Zwarte Piet with black people or slavery, nor do I know anyone who ever has.

  3. Stephanie says:

    In Belgium, it is also a tradition to leave a beer for Pete as well as the sweets for St. Nick. Random

  4. KVDL says:

    I'm sorry, I am Dutch and this is no way makes us racists. We are not racists and there are many other countries that have traditions that have 'racist elements'. Look at your own culture before you attack another one without knowing the full story.

  5. Shondrea says:

    First thought is that it's racist but that is in the framing of American chattel slavery (Black woman speaking). I don't know the racial history of these countries, but I'd be curious to know what the PoC of those countries feel.

  6. Virginie says:

    In not any way is this holiday meant to be racist. I understand it looks like that if you did not grow op with this tradition. Childeren in Belgium and the Netherlands do not only admire Saint Nicholas but they also admire Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). I know an African boy that grew up in Belgium and he does not see the racist element because he grow up with this celebration. Please do not judge if you have never been at one of these parades :)

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