AD.nl reported on Thursday, that the spokesperson of Amsterdam mayor Ebderhard van der Laan, stated that the mayor wants to speak with the residents who are opposing the cities yearly Saint Nicholas parade. The petitioners, which are 21 residents of Amsterdam, claim that the organizers of the parade shouldn't be granted a permit. In their petition they support their claims by saying that the fictitious character 'Zwarte Piet' (Black Pete), Saint Nicholas' helper, has a racist undertone. After the initial hearing, which took place on Thursday, the mayors spokesperson added that the mayor understood that the parade was a sensitive matter under non-white Dutch citizens.
Laan is hoping that they will be able to reach a compromise that won't cause for the Saint Nicholas celebration to be ruined. The committee that organizes the annual parade said that, "We can't make a lot of chances to the tradition. But, we want to focus on the future. We hope to find a solution that will allow us to organize a party that includes everyone." The committee handling the petition, is scheduled to make its decision no later than 5 November.
The Saint Nicholas tradition has been taking place since the 15th century. It wasn't until the 1850s that Saint Nicholas was given so-called servants. Jan Schenkman wrote a book in 1850 titled "Saint Nicholas and his servants" and introduced the character 'Black Pete'. Schenkman never explained why he added black servants to the story. During the time that Schenkman's book was published, the Netherlands had a number of colonies and was heavily involved in the slave trade. The Dutch didn't have slaves within the borders of the Netherlands, but kept them within their colonies. In 1863, the Dutch finally brought an end to slavery within its colonies.
Dutch supporters of the Saint Nicholas tradition claim that the Black Pete's are black because of the the soot that they were exposed to when they were coming down the chimney to bring children their presents. If that's the case, why is Black Pete's entire face painted black? Black Pete is also portrayed with big red lips, wears big gold lope earrings and having nappy hair. Text in a popular Saint Nicholas song has also raised a number of eyebrows, "Even though I am as black as soot, I mean it good". Which can be interpreted as someone saying,"I'm still a good person, even though I'm as black as soot".