Holidays
Tales /märchen

Zwarte Pite

Legend: “So, um, my mom told me uh about this. My mom told me about this. So my Mom’s mother is Dutch right, and grew up in Holland I guess, it’s not, they don’t really do Christmas. Saint Nickolas day which is on the 5th of December Sinter clause (who is Santa clause) he has a companion to Zwarte Pite which translates to Black Peter I think he’s like a Moorish guy. Like Santa’s helper maybe. I think this is where the elves come from. There isn’t a whole group of them, just one. Just like you know one helper. He helps Santa and give good kids treats, but if you’re bad, he’ll hit you with his reed. Uh or his wand, he doesn’t use a reed. That’s Krampus. He hits you with his wand or something weird like that. Or he’ll take you in his cart back to like the Moorish islands or something. Kinda weird. But he’s bumbling and a good companion. Not like Krampus. Like the German tradition. Like this evil demon guy I don’t know if helper is the right word really, he is like this terrifying horrific demon that um will like. Santa gives presents to the good children but Krampus comes to the bad children and beats them with rusty chains and reeds. And then he takes them to hell in his basket.” According to my informant Zwarte Pite is similar to other traditions in the area where Santa Claus does not deal with the bad children, but has a companion do that for him. In Holland, it is a nice spirit that will also reward children but still is capable of punishing them. She believes that the Krampus, which is a similar companion to Zwarte Pite in Germany, is used to scare children into behaving. She mentioned later that Germans have Krampus Nacht, or Krampus night, the day before Saint Nickolas day, where they dress up like the Krampus and parade through the street. She also said that Dutch people do the same with Zwarte Pite but that it is “very touchy” due to having to dress up in black face with bright red lips in traditional clothing. This is a very unintentional form of racism, according to my informant, because the point is not to make fun of black people, but to enjoy Christmas. I believe that the Moorish influence from when Holland was the Sothern Netherlands of Spain from the sixteen hundreds to the eighteen hundreds. Spain has been very influenced by the Spanish moors and this would have moved all the way up north to what would become Holland. Even if the Moors did not travel that far, prejudices would have traveled with the Spanish who moved. Having Zwarte Pite be nice may also reflect a difference in the way that German and Dutch parents raise their children. German parents are very strict while the Dutch are more laid back. There is a reason why tourists love to travel to Holland.

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