For more than 50 years the Dutch community in Seattle has held a Christmas party featuring Dutch traditions. The Holland America Club sponsors an event at Lake Forest Park honoring the tradition of Sinterklaas, which includes the traditional entrance of Santa riding a horse accompanied by his helper, Black Pete.
It should be noted that Black Pete is only black. He isn’t enslaved in the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas — he is Santa’s willing helper who sometimes acts jovially and in ancient practice would sometimes dole out punishment to kids who were not-so-nice.
The problem, just as it has been in the past two years in the Netherlands, is that some consider the portrayal of Black Pete racist because it is often pulled off by a white person wearing black face, an afro and big lips.
Local media in Seattle is covering the controversy where some residents are now declaring they will not participate in the event.
The event has a 50 year history in Seattle and has never seen this controversy before.
It is an interesting dilemma. What wasn’t racist a year ago is now vehemently considered such by some. Traditionalists, who claim they have peacefully celebrated Black Pete with nothing more than the good intentions of Christmas behind it, vow to fight the changes to the tradition in the Netherlands.
While public comments on the news story from Seattle run against criticizing the long standing tradition there doesn’t appear to be a movement afoot to save the tradition in Seattle.