Christmas Time…is here?

SinterklaasWell, at least snow is here. And Sinterklaas is also here, fresh from Spain with his black-faced minions. They were in Leiden this past Saturday to open up an H&M. (The nine-millionth H&M in Holland, for those who are counting.) I wasn’t at the opening, but I kept seeing those creepy Zwarte Piets everywhere. At the frite place, at Centraal Station…in my hellish nightmares. They’re also dolls in store displays, cut-outs in shop windows, and mascots on chocolate candy boxes. They vary from looking like actual black people to being total golliwogs. It’s very odd. Their are ones at the dangerously cartoonish end of the spectrum that look straight-up apish; those actually frighten me.

People keep telling me, “Oh, Piet just looks like that because he went down a chimney!” Right. Because chimney soot always leaves you with red lips and nappy hair.

Riiiggght.

Yes, I know I’m coming from an American perspective. Yes, I know the tradition is old. But would anyone miss it if Santa stopped attending The Birth of a Nation cast party? Would the children cry, or would the old people cry? I mean, come on, Holland. You’re not homogeneous anymore. This, clearly, can’t last like this forever.

Well, I’ll let David Sedaris narrate the whole explanation. And I’ll let Vince Guaraldi score it. Merry Sinterklaas to all.

Christmas Time Is Here by Vince Guaraldi

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5 Responses to “Christmas Time…is here?”


  1. 1 Felipe November 25, 2008 at 07:48

    Ummmmmmm yay America!
    yeesh.

  2. 2 Felipe November 25, 2008 at 07:50

    and yet, I’ve never heard of this golliwogg thing before today… so maybe that’s encouraging?

  3. 3 Alex Robertson Textor November 26, 2008 at 07:03

    I was reading through your post thinking “David Sedaris! David Sedaris!” only to see your link. He does a number on the tradition, doesn’t he?

    I noticed that in the advertisement you published with your post that the Zwarte Pieten have become “Pieten.” Is this not a partial recognition of the craziness of the phenomenon? Assuming yes, there’s something uneasily hilarious there, as if a name change is all that’s needed to undo or retreat from the damage of the tradition.

    (I for one would like to see Ch!pz perform in public, but that’s me.)

  4. 4 amherstdam November 26, 2008 at 12:27

    Oh, Ch!pz. They could open for the Pieten!

    Yeah, it seems like they kept the “Zwarte” out of the title, but not off the face! I was talking to my dad about it, because he lived in the Netherlands in the 60’s. He was surprised that they’ve made absolutely no progress since then.

    It’s funny, because when I got here, everyone was ragging on Bush and how backwards America is. November 4th, we get Obama. November 22, they get Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. I mean, come on.

  5. 5 meekins November 26, 2008 at 18:45

    Hahaha “Sinterklaas is also here, fresh from Spain with his black-faced minions.”

    I just wrote a post about this very topic, I too find it both bizarre and racist!


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