This Sunday the streets were clogged with children and their guardians. They were lining the streets to greet a gang of unconvincing black men and their leader, a man in a dress. These guys are from Spain, and if children have not been good, they go back to Spain with them in a bag. This is Sinterklaas, the Spanish priest who was repackaged and sold to the world at large as Santa Claus. The blacked-up white guys represent Piet, full name Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), his ‘helper.’
Anyone who comes from anywhere else in the world is always either perturbed or shocked at the Piet character. Or rather the fact that to represent him, otherwise liberal-minded men smear boot polish on their faces and dance around crazily. But it is all done in naïve innocence rather than with any malice. But still, there is offence to be taken and I know of at least one international school which tries to steer the practice in less murky waters by having Bonte Piet (Coloured Piet) where all of the faces are painted in all the different colours). But whatever colour he is, he is the one the kids prefer. Sinterklaas is the dignified cleric, whereas Piet is the one who doles out the sweets.
That's quite enough pictures like that. Strange country.