Every year, on the 5th of December, the Netherlands celebrates the birthday of a very old man. His name is St Nicolas. He has a long white beard and he rides on a white horse over the rooftops. We kids call him also Sinterklaas. He is a nice man because he brings presents to kids who are good. Sounds familiar? Yes, Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are related. However Sinterklaas was there first.
Sinterklaas always makes his entrance in the Netherlands by boat in Amsterdam. He is supposed to come all the way from Spain (Don't ask the Spanish about this, you will get some uncomprehending looks). Sinterklaas is usually assisted by some black assistants. We call them “Zwarte Piet” (mustapekka). Zwarte Piet is usually an friendly clown who likes to make jokes with kids while Sinterklaas is usually a figure of authority. Sinterklaas has a book with all your good deeds and naughty stuff that you did during year (supplied by the parents of course), and decides whether to give you a present, a birching, or to throw you in the bag and send you to Spain. Aah well, that is to say. Those last punishments we don't do any more.
We are a bit more civilized nowadays.When I was young we sat with the whole family beside a plastic bath in which my mother had put all the presents (delivered by Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet of course). We sang songs about Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. My mother had a whole song book full of them and even an LP with Sinterklaas songs. My brother and I were eager to see what Sinterklaas had brought. Silly poems were attached to every present and had to be read first before one could tear the paper open. In the mean time mustapekka sometimes returned to throw pepernoten. A Dutch delicacy which is especially used in the Sinterklaas party. It tastes like pippurikakku but is smaller, much smaller. We scrambled through the living room to find all those little sweets that were so generously thrown on a clean floor. As you become older, you understand of course that Sinterklaas does not exist. That you get rarely anything for free, but you keep those nice memories of sitting in front of that old plastic tub that my mother used on ordinary days for her laundry. Most Dutch people have such memories and we cherish them with a certain fondness.So it came as very cold shower when a man named Quinsy Gario started to protest about Zwarte Piet. Mustapekka is a form of discrimination he said. Now there he touched a sour spot. We Dutchies don't think of ourselves
|Quinsy Gario. Born and raised on the Dutch Antillen, speaks Dutch, writes poetry in Dutch,is Dutch.|
as discriminating people. And as far as I can see for most part we don't. When I think of mustapekka I think of the jolly clown who made such fun. Not as a slave of Sinterklaas. Fond memories. How does he dare to call that discrimination? But he dared, he provoked and the whole country tried to prove him wrong. The problem however with that kind of discussion is that the harder you have try to prove that someone is wrong, the more likely it is that he is right. You see, it is not for me to judge whether or not my act is discriminating. It is for the person in question to judge if he feels discriminated. So if Quinsy Gario feels discriminated he probably is. Many people in the Netherlands want to have none of this. They want to keep their traditions. Sinterklaas is a bishop with a white beard and a white horse. Mustapekka is black. No discussion please. Don't dare to try say anything against like Anouk did (you may remember her from the song birds in the Euro song contest 2013). You get all kinds of shit throw at you. Fortunately Anouk is a strong woman who can manage the negative side of being famous quite well. But worse, freaks on both sides of discussion seem to find an excuse to do horrible things. That's not how it should be on a children's party. Both sides seem to realize that, but are blaming each other for the deterioration of the situation. What the solution will be is unknown yet. Both the city of Amsterdam and the TV program "Sinterklaas uutiset" will have a huge influence on what is to come. And not in the least the kids themselves. One parent remarked that he was surprised to see that his kid was not wondering about a mustapekka who was not black. It is therefore more an adult problem than a children's problem and I hope we find a compromise soon. As for me, I am happy that cracks are occurring. Why can't mustapekka be red, blue or green? Isn't it time to rewrite the old Sinterklaas songs? Some were already seriously outdated when I sat beside that tub. Time for renewal you would think. And never fear. It will always remain a typical Dutch children's party.
A bunch of colored Pekkas
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