I have been living here since last December. Actually, I moved over to the Netherlands on the actual day of the Dutch National ´Sinterklaas´ holiday. Let me tell you, that was a big shock. I did not really prepare myself for any kind of other Christmas holiday apart from the one that occurs at the usual time, you know, 24th/25th December. Hmm. I should have googled ´Holland in December´ because then at least I would have been prepared for THIS friendly gang of cheer-spreaders that would greet me at Schipol International Airport, December 5th 2010.
So, upon further investigation, I found out the following things:
1. The characters in the above photo are Sinterklaas and his helpers Zwarte Piet.
2. It is typical Dutch that on December 5th, the streets of the Netherlands are filled with people dressed as Sinterklaas/Zwarte Piet characters handing out sweets to children
3. Zwarte Piet (black Pete) will take the naughty children away from their parents in a bag
4. Sinterklaas and his helpers live in Madrid. Maybe they own a timeshare.
Yes, I am also none the wiser about this but I enjoy the cautionary and direct tale that Dutch parents might tell their children –
”Listen little Jan, if you do not behave this year then Zwarte Piet will put you in a bag and take you back to Madrid”
I am really not sure how I felt about this festive cultural difference between the Father Chirstmas that I am familiar with or the rather more sinister Father Christmas that I am now faced with. Dutch Father Chirstmas seems to have a better outfit than Regular Father Christmas, not to mention more ethnically diverse elves that do not look unlike the Robertson’s Jam characters that were banned for fear of racial reprisal – you know which ones I mean.
But what about these black-painted-lipstick-wearing Dutch Christmas characters? Quite simply, the tradition of the Christmas story had not been diluted to suit the politic correctness of the modern world. The Dutch remained true to their story and, actually, without a hint of malice so no need to alert the BBC or Points of View or the UN. The Dutch simply remain true to the history of the story.
If you would like to feel assured about the fact that the Dutch are not racist, please visit:
This was to be my first indication that the Dutch are candid, straight-talkers. This is no place for an English girl.