Every year people disagree with the Dutch tradition of an organised childrens party where people are painted black, called as Black Petes. The “Black Pete” in Hollandalso known as Zwarte Piet is serving the old man St. Nicholas with distributing sweets and presents. Is this tradition old-fashioned and too much related to 18th century Holland? And does that mean that this tradition in Holland is only for white people? The whole world has an opinion about this curious tradition.

History teaches us that Zwarte Piet is not racist but stems from a Germanic old “fairy tale”. Those German citizens came during the winter in order to pick up the spring and bring the winter. According to the fairy tale, Zwarte Piet is coverd in soot from the chimmey, causing him to appear black. Unfortunately, Holland has an enormous slavery past what brings different emotions by the citizens in combination with the Zwarte Piet story. A lot of people argue that this fairytale story does not fit in our society anymore. To celebrate, we are forcing (black) people to teach their children the story and to celebrate something against their own feelings, what is quite common with the slavery 100 years ago on production level. (Silver2003)

Does that mean that this tradition in Holland is only for white people?
 When I was young and believed in this story I never noticed that children with a different skin colour did not enjoy this party. It is not allowed to accept in 21st century the inequality of colour by people. Are we all being pushed lemming-like in the thought of a “traditional child party” or is this modern inequality and thus only a tradition for the “white” people?  Verene Shepherd from the VN Shepherd stated: “Black Pete is not an old traditional child celebrating party but modern slavery. It is a return of the slavery and I am surprised at the lack of knowledge and realisation of this by the people in Holland“.

However, new liberalism provides the common interest justification for public policies aimed at these objectives, and a much safer justification because it is “ a political”. According to the common interest the government should not decide whether or not the party continues, but the people. (Ravenhill, 2011) It is important to known that sometimes it is not a bad thing to disagree with each other. This discussion, “if Zwarte Piet the child friend is for everyone”, is not a matter of teasing each other but a matter of giving opinions. Every year I am surprised about the fact that a nuance in how we dress children is the most important debate is of our time. This says something positive about our time and something negative about our priorities. Let’s meet each other in the middle so that at the very least so every child has their celebration.

Liza Rietvelt


Fontein, J., 2013 Hoofd VN-onderzoek: zwarte piet is terugkeer slavernij. De Volkskrant [online] October 22, 2013. Available at Accessed 22 October, 2014]

Raboteau, E., 2014 Who is Zwarte Piet?: A holiday tradition in the Netherlands? Viginia Quarterly Review. Vol. 90 Issue 1, p142-155. 14p. Available at:  [Accessed 23 October, 2014]

Ravenhill, J, Global Political Economy, third edition, p402-408, [Accessed on 11 December 2014]

Silver, J.B, Forces of labor, Workers’ movements and globalization since 1870, p.41-43, [Accessed on 11 December 2014]


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