I done did it:
A kilo of Donegal Heather aran weight Irish grown and spun yarn in a perfect shade of greyish blue.
So good for the colours of my face!
Oooh, so squishy!
This will be great for a cardigan 🙂
But first I’ll finish Wintertrui and February sweater. I’m still knitting on them both! But not writing about it.
Because today is Sinterklaas, a national feast where we gently poke our loved ones with witty poems attached to a gift.
Americans will recognize “Santa Claus” in the name “Sinterklaas” and you’re right. It’s the same Saint Nicholas.
With us he still wears his bishops’ attire and he brought his staff member:
Saint Nicholas was a bishop in Persia, long long ago. We’ve been celebrating this saint since Medieval times.
Unfortunately to modern eyes, especially those from a country that experienced slavery and “black face make up“, the feast now looks racist.
It is not, originally.
The dark skinned advisories of the saint are Morish noblemen and staff. Dressed in 17th century dress. They help the old man keeping track of which child behaved well and deserves a present:
They are named Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”) which is the name of a bogeyman in old European myths: a black devil that kidnapped bad kids.
It’s only a century and a half ago that Zwarte Piet was added to the story of Sinterklaas. Zwarte Piet is a modern invention! The new duo became a tool to scare children into behaving.
For the last century we’ve been lying to children that Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet come over from Spain in a steam boat. They roam the roofs, listening wether kids behave and then dropping gifts through the chimney.
About 30 years ago the bogeyman part of Zwarte Piet dissolved, since we no longer believe one should scare kids into behaving well.
Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas is such a mesh of myths and customs that one can’t clearly define Sinterklaas or Zwarte Piet. There are many variations and origins. Not one of them is the true Sinterklaas. Not one of them is the true Zwarte Piet.
But for one thing: the figure of Zwarte Piet was never meant to mock black people.
However, it does now look racist to our modern eyes.
And dark skinned Dutchmen àre being called “Zwarte Piet!” by young children who still believe in the fairy tale.
Which dóes make it a racist phenomenon nowadays.
But not for the reasons people usually think.
So, as a country, we are in a bit of a pickle.
We have this old tradition which is really part of our culture. There’s a lot of fun in it.
We have a lot of people thinking it mocks black people, especially foreigners who see “black face”. And we have locals being called Zwarte Piet which is a tiresome experience.
We have a problem. We don’t know what to do. But it’s clear it cannot go on like it did for the past century.
This year they tried different coloured Zwarte Piet. There even was a clownish white one. Which scared the kids and adults to no end.
We had protests and demonstrations.
these pictures come from the Saint Nicholas Center.org, a good site to learn about Saint Nic and his various spin offs.
To me the solution is this: we cannot deny nor solve the racist associations in the current feast. It has to metamorphose. The medieval idea of a black bogeyman has to go. It’s outdated.
But also the idea of the “simple servant” has to go. Even with a different coloured face Zwarte Piet still looks racist to me: goofy simple African guy serving his master.
I’d like to make Zwarte Piet the Morish nobleman that his looks come from. A salute to history and to an empire we know little about nowadays. Taneter.org is a site dedicated to just that. Awesome info!
Zwarte Piet would be an equal to Sinterklaas. Moors were well revered when Saint Nicholas was around. He could easily be a fellow saint.
This would make an awesome extrapolation to our tradition!
It could tie a thread to his Dutch counterparts: the noblemen and staff in the 17th century in Holland, that’s our Golden Age, with Rembrandt and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and the lot.
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet could even be time travellers and bringing old (funnily backward) ideas to the modern Dutch and being amazed by for example modern toilet facilities. It would make for fun poems!
(my poems last year were nearly all about cat poop, what can I say)
Anyway, not much knitting today. I’m writing poems and wrapping presents. And petting yarn.