While the three weeks of festivities leading up to the Dec. 5 celebration of Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, will surely take place this year, they’re drawing international scrutiny. A panel that advises the United Nations on human rights has questioned whether depictions of the mischievous helpers, collectively called Black Petes and typically portrayed by whites in blackface paint, are racist.The New Yorker has more.
Retailers are voting for the Petes by keeping shelves stocked with goods bearing their image. Stores run by Royal Ahold NV, (AH) owner of the Stop & Shop chain in the U.S., sell everything from Black Pete children’s outfits and face-painting kits to bath gels bearing grinning Black Petes with wide lips and gold hoop earrings. Giant stuffed Petes will again climb the atrium at De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam’s premier department store. Toy store Bart Smit sells Playmobil sets of three Black Petes for 9.99 euros ($13.50).