Saturday, December 24, 2011
Suriname abolishes Sinterklaas (and Black Pete) again
Photo: a black man as "Black Pete" ("Zwarte Piet") in Suriname
The Surinamese National Assembly has taken a resolute stance against the embattled Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, the bearded white man who brings children goodies with the help of his slavish pitch-black helpers. “This celebration has a racist element and doesn’t belong in our community. It should be abolished,” said Ronald Venetiaan, of the New Front/National Party Suriname faction. In an unprecedented show of support, other parties, including the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) parliamentarians all agreed with the former President during the parliamentary meetings on Thursday.
Sinterklaas and his little helper “Zwarte Piet”, literally Black Pete, are a big tradition in Holland. Every year on December 5th, children wake up excited, expecting gifts and pepernoten cookies left in their stockings by the Sint who visits Dutch cities riding high a flashing white steed. The tradition has survived fierce opposition in the Netherlands from the immigrant population, who feel that Sinterklaas has racist undertones. But Dutch people say Sinterklaas should not offend anybody, because the slavish Zwarte Piet is not a black man, but a white helper who got black because he came down the chimney to deliver the children their gifts.
The tradition was left behind as an inheritance in Suriname, even after the country gained independence in 1975. It was actually already abolished in the eighties during military rule. Children’s Day was introduced on December 5th, but Sinterklaas survived obstinately to return full circle in recent years. The bearded white man was a prominent figure luring parents to toy shops a few weeks ago.
Venetiaan lamented the fact that Sinterklaas was even celebrated on the Independence Square, which he considered a slap in the face of the “Black part of Suriname’s community”, considering how hard has been fought all over the world against apartheid. His call for a renewed abolishment got full support from Parliament chairlady Jennifer Geerlings-Simons, who is also the faction leader of the NDP. Geerlings-Simons said that as a start, Sinterklaas should no longer be celebrated at public schools that resort under the Ministry of Education. “What people do in the privacy of their homes we cannot influence,” she said. (Source devsur.com)