News - November 29, 2012

Dutch Sinterklaas: carrots but no sticks


Last week I went to the city centre to see the Sinterklaas procession.

I was surprised to see many kids run up to Zwarte Piet, calling his name and asking for kruidnoten. The children even bring bags with them to collect the sweets. What makes me laugh is the Dutch explanation that Zwarte Piet is black because he goes down the chimney to bring gifts for the kids. In the night of 5 December, Dutch families will gather and bring presents for each other. But these are not straightforward presents, but 'surprises' with which to tease or play practical tricks on each other.
I have known Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet since I was a kid, but I always thought that Sinterklaas and Santa Claus were the same.  In Indonesia Zwarte Piet is described as a black person who comes armed with a stick to hit naughty children and a sack to carry them off in. My parents told me that Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet come on Christmas Eve. If we put shoes and some grass for the saint's horse outside our house, Sinterklaas would come and leave Christmas gifts for good kids, while Zwarte Piet would punish the naughty kids. Kids in Indonesia are usually afraid of Zwarte Piet. Since Zwarte Piet is nice to kids here, I wonder what Dutch parents say to their children to get them to behave themselves.
Liga Wiratama from Indonesia