Want to order your very own Zwarte Piet?

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Each year on 5 December, the Dutch celebrate the eve of Saint Nicholas. And each year in the Netherlands, a debate arises about the many black-faced, Afro-haired helpers who figure in the narrative of Sinterklaas, as the Dutch call the white-bearded saint who children have come to associate with gifts and sweets.

Those who say Zwarte Piet – which literally means ‘Black Pete’ – is a slave take offense at the perpetuation of a politically incorrect, if not downright racist, tradition. This year, an Amsterdam councilwoman told a Dutch daily that it was high time to say goodbye to Zwarte Piet. Meanwhile, others maintain that Zwarte Piet is a humorous character in a harmless fairytale. Some attribute his black face to travelling down many a chimney to bring children presents at home.

In 2007, the Groen Brothers, a comedy duo from Amsterdam, produced this satirical infomercial, telling Dutch viewers how they could order their very own Zwarte Piet.