Monday, December 5, 2011

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas (or more formally Sint Nicolaas or Sint Nikolaas), is a traditional Winter holiday figure in Dutch-speaking Europe (Netherlands and Flanders), and is also well known in territories of the former Dutch Empire, including South Africa, Aruba, Suriname, Curaçao, Bonaire, and Indonesia. He is one of the sources of the holiday figure of Santa Claus in North America.
It is celebrated annually on Saint Nicholas' eve (5 December) or, in Belgium, on the morning of 6 December. Originally, the feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas—patron saint of children, sailors, and the city of Amsterdam, among others.
A Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is a servant of Sinterklaas, usually an adolescent in blackface with black curly hair, dressed up like a 17-th century page in a colourful dress, often with a lace collar, and donning a feathered beret. Yes, the tradition stems from a time before political correctness...
 Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American War of Independence the inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town  (New Amsterdam) reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city's non-English past. The name Santa Claus supposedly derived from older Dutch Sinter Klaas.

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