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.