Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Sinterklaas in Amsterdam
As I was on my way to the Sinterklaas arrival party in Leidseplein last month I spotted children's cutouts in a window. The figure on the left is "Zwarte Piet," Sinterklaas' fun-loving Moorish helper. In the Netherlands, legend has it that Sinterklaas (the figure in the red hat) arrives from his home in Spain by boat, after which he disembarks astride his white horse and rides through the land, dispersing goodies and gifts. One Santa for the whole country arrives in Amsterdam (lucky me!) and a full scale parade with floats and tons of Zwarte Piets ensues from the ship to Leidseplein, where Sinterklaas addresses the crowd, spreading good cheer to the rain-soaked masses.
Dutch kids are really, really cute and happy children as a rule, and this event brought those qualities out. It almost made me teary, looking at their earnest little faces. Many of them dressed up either as Sinterklaas or one of his helpers, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). The adults dressed as Zwarte Piets all put on brown face makeup to look like Moors. This can be startling to Americans sensitive to certain images due to our history of racial conflict, but I assure you this is not construed as or interpreted as offensive, here.
The Zwarte Piets dance around, goof off, insert themselves in people's photographs and hand out goodies in advance of Sinterklaas' appearance.