December 10, 2013

Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

Je suis une grincheuse.

There are a lot of things that I loathe about Christmas, most of which revolve around the crass consumerism on display come November 1st.  Three weeks ago, I was grocery shopping in the local Valumart and I saw a rack of Christmas goodies that had been reduced for "quick sale".  This depressed moi.  Of course the stupid cookies were half off; who wants to eat Christmas cookies on the 19th of November?

Christmas bitchery aside, there are some things about Christmas that I do like:
  • making sugar cookies with the kids  "No, we are not making witch cookies; it's Christmas! You will clean up EVERY sprinkle you just dumped on that floor.  And stop licking the spoon!"
  • "Baby, It's Cold Outside"    It's not rapey, dammit! *
  • a glass of Bailey's on ice  "I have not had three in a row!"
  • donating to the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle   "That's my loony, Mumma! Give it back! It's for the Dollar Store!"
  • the candle service at our local United Church on Christmas Eve  "Of course he burned his finger! What moron gives a toddler a lit candle?" 
And then there's Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten at the Dutch Club.  Not sure what to say about this.  Some history:  Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands on the 5th of December with his slaves / servants  helpers in tow, to distribute candy and goodies to children.

Here's Nathaniel, posing with the festive trio:

It was difficult to convince the ten-year-old to sit on Sinter's knee, but when I threatened tears, he relented.  Little does he know that he's gonna sit on Sinter each and every year until he's out of the house...

Oh-ho.  What's that I hear in the gallery?  Murmurs of blackface?  Yes, loyal readers, that is blackface that you see.  And here's some more.  (Because I'm getting long in the tooth, it's time for me to start taking blurry pictures of the telly too.  Hi Oma!)

I captured the above shot while the kiddies were hanging out with a creepy clown:

Bozo cracked: "that one's for Facebook, put it on Facebook!"
Frankly, I find the clown to be more disturbing than the Zwarte Piets.

As you can see from my pictures, there's a gouda amount a cheese at the Dutch Club.  

But, let's get back to black here.  Here's a photo I took in 2008:

And another shot of the racist child:

Wait, what's that?  He's not racist?  Oh, but he's sitting with two teenage girls in blackface.  They must be racist then.  Oh, they're not?  True, I didn't hear any racial slurs.  

Here's the problem.  These Black Petes remind people of a time when blacks were persecuted as a cultural norm.  Compounding this issue is that the Black Peter tradition began in the first quarter of the 19th century, before slavery was abolished.  People, thinking people, don't want to be reminded of this.  The tradition is definitely NOT politically correct.  And I am nothing, if not p.c.  

In fact, there has been trouble brewing over the Zwarte Pieten for years.  The characters put people in mind of this:

Minstrel Show image from Wikipedia
And this:

illustration from Kate Upton's Golliwogg and Friends, 1895

And this:

Zwarte Piet image from

By the way, that last picture is a Zwarte Piet.  These caricatures reinforce negative stereotypes and attitudes about blacks.  If I were black, how would Zwarte Pieten make me feel?  There is my answer.  I hate to be the one to piss on a parade, but I don't think that Black Piet is a positive symbol for Christmases to come.

There is no pat solution.  Black Piet is as much a part of Sinterklaas, as the elves and Mrs. Claus are to Santa.  The original dim-witted Piet was indeed a slave, then he morphed into a "servant" and today he's a "helper".  He's become smarter over the years, due to pressure from the thinking public.  It might be time for the Netherlands to smarten up too.

Because I like to end on a happy note, I have included some Christmas music and hilarity here at the end of this post.

I participated in a cookie exchange in 2010.  Here's a photo of some cookies that I received from a Scroogey baker, with a quarter to reference size of said biscuits.  That was the last cookie exchange that I participated in.

7 crumbs do not a cookie make

Here are some more pictures from the happy day at the Dutch Club followed by some tunes for your listening pleasure.

The wacky Tomato Soup band, comprised entirely of crusty Dutchmen, entertained the families while the children beat each other about the head and neck with balloons:

Gwen dancing with one of the Dykehoppers:

Action shot! I convinced Nathaniel to do a traditional Dutch dance with me.  

Merry Christmas!

Soundtrack: Baby, It's Cold Outside from Glee.  I love this version.

*  If you are interested in a discussion about the "rapey" aspect of the song Baby, It's Cold Outside, click on the song title.  You can also watch this video, which is from the 1949 film, Neptune's Daughter.  Spoiler: sleaze alert.

And for the traditionalists, another version from Norah Jones and Willie Nelson:

Merry Christmas!