Sinterklaas 2016: Why Dutch Santa Needs Police Protection

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Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, has become so contentious in the Netherlands that the benevolent figure now attracts protestors. Over the weekend, 200 people were arrested during the annual parade in the city of Rotterdam.

How can anyone have issues with a saint who brings gifts to children (think of Sinterklaas as the Dutch version of Santa Claus who arrives in early December)?

Well, it isn't ol' Sint they are upset over exactly, it's his helper, Zwarte Piet, which translates to "Black Peter." As tradition has it, white people play this role... in black face complete with red lips, gold hoop earrings and wigs.

While the debate over whether or not Zwarte Piet is racist has deeply divided communities like Rotterdam, others are slowly trying to change the black-face tradition.

Traditionally, Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet deliver presents via horse. But in Amsterdam's parade this year, Zwarte Piet was played by people with "sooty faces," as though he had just come down the chimney to help deliver presents.

Just last year, the United Nations urged Holland to put an end to the black face every December. It stated: “the character of Black Pete is sometimes portrayed in a manner that reflects negative stereotypes of people of African descent and is experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery.”

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