My Other Blog

What's a Wreck?

A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.

Now, don't you have a photo you want to send me? ;)

- Jen

Christmas in July: Going Dutch

Ok, sure, it's July, and the last thing on your mind is broadening your...uh...mind...with exposure to international holiday traditions - I get it. However, this particular post was deemed by the powers that be* too controversial to post back in December, so all my hard work and sparkling wit got shelved, its radiance cloaked all these long months.

So what changed?

Well, that's a long story. One involving too many mango mojitos, a Chuck marathon, and a malfunctioning alarm clock. (Ok, so maybe it's not that long of a story...)

But enough intro: you guys ready to have those minds broadened? I promise it will only sting a little.

*meaning me, John, and the cat

In the Netherlands Santa Claus (called Sinterklaas) doesn't have elves for sidekicks; he has Zwarte Piet (meaning "Black Pete"). Zwarte Piet is usually played by a white guy in blackface makeup, a curly black wig, and big gold hoop earrings. (I am SO not making this up.)

Here's a reference photo from Wikipedia:

"Get your hand off my robe; you'll make it dirty."

Zwarte shows up in cake form quite a lot, too, and in less than flattering ways:

However, if this seems a little insensitive to you, Wreckporter Kiki has a perfectly reasonable explanation:

"Dutch people claim Pete is black because of the soot in the chimneys he has to climb down to deliver the gifts."

OH, so it's soot! Ok, I get it. And you're right: this does look a lot like Bert the chimney sweep:

We all know how Bert liked his lipstick.

And dressing up like Aunt Jemima:

This one found by Wouter T. is probably the most wreckish; it looks like the remains of a melting muppet:

Ever heard the expression "in for a penny, in for a pound"? Well, since I'm already stirring up trouble here, I may as well share what Megan H. found at a bakery in Argentina:

They're little cakes called "Africancitos", or "little black men". With bows on their heads. I don't think they're a holiday treat, though, so you can enjoy your little-black-men cake heads any time of the year. "Great for parties!"

(Yes, I've officially crossed the line from horrified disbelief into horrified humor. It's more fun over here - won't you join me?)

To those of you offended by all this, you should know that Zwarte Piet was not intended to be offensive. (Argentina, you're on your own.) And to those of you who see nothing wrong with outdated and racially insensitive traditions, you should take a look at this poster:

« Copyright Unfringement | Main | Who Ordered the Poo Poo Platter? »

Reader Comments (337)

Oh my GOD, get OVER it. I have many close friends who are black, so when I'm out somewhere and someone assumes that I'm racist, it really ticks me off. If you cut me in line at the grocery store, don't turn around and say that I only told you to move because you're black. If you do something nasty to me, I don't care about what color your skin is. I'm not a racist, so stop assuming that everyone is a racist. It's rediculous. People are SO sensitive. Get over yourselves.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAE

I read your post today, and then I laughed until I cried a single tear, which turned into a jellybean all the colors of the rainbow... =)

(It is more fun over here.)

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWorldWithinReach

Heh. I had read about Zwarte Piet, but I had always pictured him as a dark-complectioned, sooty-faced, but ethnically-Dutch-looking man. You learn something new every day.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Much as I love CakeWrecks, I confess I do have a problem with this post. Sinterklaas happens to be my favourite holiday of the year, filled with fun and excitement. (Never with cake though, that part stays weird.) And possibly I am just a weird Dutch woman that can't properly understand outsiders' perspectives on this. But at the same time, I sincerely doubt any of you 'outsiders' have a clue. You all seem to be stuck on the fact that oh noes, here's a black man subservient to a white man. Perhaps that was once true. These days I feel it's more a white man that happens to employ multiple coloured people. If you could see the nationally televised festive arrival of Sinterklaas each year, you'd see that it's enacted more like very capable hard working Black Petes that run the show and help the friendly old man in the right direction.

I confess I'd never heard the soot explanation before. I thought it was simply because he's Moorish; Moorish invasion of Spain, Sinterklaas actually living in Spain, etc. He usually wears a white fluffy collar (see picture 2), so wouldn't that get dirty in the chimneys?

I truly don't believe there's any racist part to this tradition. Or not anymore, since I cannot knowledgably speak to the early origins of the tradition. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet are both dearly beloved icons of Dutch culture.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaaike

marybt said "If I'm ot mistaken, Pete also kicks bad little boys and girls. I am so not making that up."

Then he can't be all bad.

Why to wreckie faces always look like muppets?

wv: filli a little girl horse*LOL*

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHyena Overlord

I just think it's comical that people can get "offended" by theoretically offending some nebulous "other" group.

And I LOVED that I read this post on the exact 10th anniversary of my run with the bulls in old Pamplona.

To you RWTB haters out there: There are some things in life that aren't meant to be intelligent. And would I do it again? Yep.

Thanks for posting that, Jen!

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEl Comodoro

Odd how people think tradition is beyond reproach. I suppose bullfighting and cock fighting isn't animal cruelty, either. Thank goodness the "It's tradition!" excuse didn't fly back when human sacrifice went out of vogue.

Hilarious post, and I love how educational it is! Can't say I like being proven wrong in my idea that I'd never see blackface in my lifetime, but ignorance certainly isn't preferable.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick

I don't think the fact that "Santa" has a helper who is of Moorish descent is where people are offended or insulted - but more in the actual depiction. I would have to say the big, red or pink lips might be the culprit here. Yes, we have "white" face cookies - but their lips aren't made in the same way that insulting comedy portrayed such a person for decades.

I do love that you ventured here - it's fabulous! The wrecktastic nature of the entire thing is hilarious. You can be offended AND laugh at it at the same time...

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDea

I remember taking a trip to the Netherlands a few years ago, at Christmastime, and running across a local celebration featuring St Nicholas and Black Pete. My Dutch friend could not understand why I was horrified, and I had to explain to her that blackface in America is... frowned upon.

Cultural differences FTW.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnnathaema Is...

To another "anonymous":
don't assume that Europeans aren't racist because they don't have our past. In my experience, they are more racist precisely because they haven't had that past, of actually interacting with Africans for hundreds of years. So they have much more blatant stereotypes and sense of cultural superiority-- heck, they even feel superior to Americans and other Europeans! Ask a Dutch person about a German sometime.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"this kinda stuff seems to go over a bit better in countries that don't have America's er.. spotty racial history..."

Yeah, because the Dutch ever did anything like, say, capture and sell people into slavery or anything....they just never had to live with the aftermath, eh?

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDea

Well, I'm not Dutch, but peope here have also refered to the German tradition of Knecht Ruprecht, so I wanted to clear that one up. Knecht Ruprecht is not black, he really is only soot covered and dirty. He helps Saint Nicholas (who is not the same as Santa, we get our christmas gifts from baby Jesus). But when kids get dressed up as the three kings on the sixth of december, one of them usually does dress up as the "moore king" - blackface included. So we are no better in that respect.

Some postrs have rightly pointed out that our history with racism is a different one than that of the US. I think this is one of the reasons why many people here do not understand the inherrennt offensivenes of blackface- they have no idea of the history it has in the States. That history doesn't exist here, so they see it as just people dressing up and trying to look like the character they are portaying.

However, while we do not share that particuar history, many Europeans love to ignore their own parts in the horrific things that happened and are still happening to people of colour - not using the term African American because there are a lot of black people in Europe who are obviousely not American.

Acting as if slavery was merey an American problem is ignorant of the facts and our historic responsibilities. And living up to those responsibilities includes looking at our traditions and asking ourselves if they contain racist stereotypes.

The issue of blackface is a special one because that history really doesn't exist here, but just because many people here might not understand why Americans find it offensive, doesn't mean we shouldn't listen to their explanations. And then maybe change something, even if we do not share that particular history. We did not have the minstrel shows, so many people here don't know why blackface is offensive, and why it is not the same as dressing up as a woman/ an Irish. I honestly think that lack of knowledge is one of the main reasons why many responses here don't get the inherent offensiveness that is obvious to Americans. But just because we don't have that knowledge doesn't mean we can't get it. We can learn from the mistakes of others, no?

The rasism-debate in Europe may be a very different one, focussing on different issues, mainly because of the crimes committed by my country and those who went along with it, but that does not give us the right to take away others outrage as "just overly sesitive".

We get offended when Americans throw the term Nazi around (Grammar Nazi, Food Nazi etc)without any understanding of what it means to us to be called a Nazi. We expect them to think about why this could be offensive. Then we sure as hell need to do the same when others are offended by something we do. Getting all "It's just traditon/ not meant to be offensive" ignores the fact that something can be offensive without intent. People can say racist things without meaning to be racist.

If an African American ( or anyone, really) is offended by the tradition of Zwarte Piet, than we should at least listen to their explanations and not get defensive pefore we even know why they feel that way. And maybe explaining that we have no history of backface will make it a little ess offensive- but if it doesn't, than that person has every right to still be offended.

Sorry for the long reply, I just felt that the inherrent offensivenes of blackface and the (potential, depending on the story) offensiveness of the origin of Zwarte Piet are two different issues. And many people in Europe don't understand the former because we don't know about the history.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlauren

I have just read 258 comments. John and Anne Marie, you are heroes!

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRFL

@ Jen or John

Maybe you could post a link to an expanation of blackface for those readers wo are not from the US and have never heard of the whole horrible thing? That might make it easier for them to understand why Americans- of all ethnic backgrounds- are offended by this idea. It really does seem to me like they get hung up on whether the story is offensive simply because it doesn't even occur to them that the blackface itself is such a big issue

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlauren

I wanted to thank Liz for posting this link:

I found it very interesting, and I would like to agree that those who are quick to say "Not Racist!" should read it. America has been confronted and challenged for her racial insensitivity in regards to the black community, which I think has helped us to further improve our race relations in that area at a faster rate than what is required of countries in which there isn't such a large voice of dissent. I've noticed this is true of any population that isn't forced to deal with certain groups. The further North I go in the United States, the less tolerant people seem to be of Mexicans, while states such as Texas seem much more racist against blacks than states like Georgia. Exposures seems to be the key, and I can well imagine that a place like the Netherlands has not yet had enough exposure to get to the point where their understanding is better evolved.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick

For some reason, I am reminded of the Neil Gaiman short story "Nicholas Was":

I am never sure which is more entertaining, people telling me I should be offended, or people telling me to stop being offended. John and Jen, you have my support.

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ~ Voltaire

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAyanna

And I just realised that my own comment (unintetionally) made it sound as if we are somehow better than the US for not having had the mistrel shows with blackface. That's not at all what I meant. We may not have had the shows, but there stereotipical, derogatory depiction of people of colour was present in Europe as well. And while it is slowly being judged as the atrocity that it is, we did not have the blackface discussion to make everyone that aware of the issue.

As I said, the racism-discussion here ususally focuses on other aspects, as anti-semitism and anti Sinti- and Roma ressentiment was what cost so many lives.
And yes, because we like to pretend that what European countries did in the countries they appropriated during the hights of their imperialism wasn't directly linked to what happened later to slaves in the US and wasn't based on the same ideas of superiority of the white man.

But while not having the same awareness may be an explanation, it is not an excuse to contiue upholding the stereotype after being made aware of its existence and what it signifies.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlauren

Because I'm not going to read 259 comments (it's midnight and I've had a few drinks)...

I'm just going to say "Chuck marathon" - Jen you are SOOOOOO cool! I love Chuck - as long as you are talking about the BuyMore Employee who is also a super spy!


July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

a Chuck marathon is always a welcome diversion... :) he is so dang cute!

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah jane

I've read all the comments too and found a few things very interesting:

1. America-bashing is fine but American offense at racist custom is asinine, apparently.

2. I don't understand how ANYONE could find candy called ****** kisses not racist.

3. Americans are terrible because they had slaves. But the Dutch that kidnapped and traded these slaves have some sort of mysterious moral high ground because they didn't use them themselves.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterj.l.

WTF! Its still interesting how somethings are still around.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

But surely saying it's racially insensitive simply because it involves black people is racist within itself? I personally don't see the offense in this... somebody please point it out to me?

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTeri

Jen, thank you for inspiring this fascinating conversation about race relations in an international context. (Who would have thought you could say that about a hilarious blog about cakes?)

I especially appreciated the comments by Rattsu and Lauren. I thought they did a great job of answering people's questions about why this might be offensive without bashing Europe or the US.

Now I'm off to my swamp to gnaw on some raccoons. (See comments by Capability Bowes if you don't know what I'm talking about).

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR

Leprechaun cake anyone?

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCapability Bowes

i love cake wrecks!!!! you guys keep me going, i mean on a normal day i can see cc wrecks and fondant wrecks but today i get to see humanity wrecks!!! like so many before me i could try to at length to express how wrong this is, but why bother? the wreck is not in the icing it's in the heart.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

As much as I agree with you about the inconvenience of so many insensitive traditions, I don't think everybody is free of judgement.

I am Spanish and I feel very sad when other countries think themselves free of judging mine because all the bullfighting stuff. I don't aprove it, and that puts me among other millions of spaniards that doesn't aprove it either. We are defined too often by our traditions, which is natural, I concede that, but unfair.

On the other hand, I don't see why eating "black people cakes" is worst than eating "white people cakes". I mean, there are Santa cakes, Superman cakes (let's forget about Super Sam xDD) or even Mother's Day cakes that represent, well... a mother xD. You know when you bake them that you are making a mere symbol, something funny and tasty, you don't think "Oh my!! I'm eating a white person here!!". I think the idea behind "africanitos" is plainly the same. Argentinians are not eating "black people" they're eating a traditional symbol, something that is a mere cake with a funny face and tastes great.

In the Netherlands they do exactly the same you Americans do when you make a Santa cake. Yes, the guy from Overseas is black, so what? Is the same idea. Look for racist pretentions in whichs is just the innocent gesture of making a cake out of a traditional character is a bit twisted, I think.

I am not accusing anyone here, but I just want to state that nobody is free of judgement. America has a long, long, looooong history with racism in it's 200 years of existence, and it's own stupid traditions (I could start with all the free gun possessing stuff and Death sentence here, but I won't) so let's not make a mountain from a grain of sand, as we say in Spain.

I am sorry for this boring statement but I had to say it. I love this blog and I laugh so much reading it, but there are some things than deserve a longer and deeper discussion and should be left apart.

Well, thankyou for your work and congrats for this blog! I soooooo love it.
Bye bye!

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

Yeah, another Dutchie in the.. uh.. Blog.

As soon as I saw this topic and considered the American point of view, I thought you were very brave..

First of all..
I had a blast reading all the comments! I did indeed read all of them.. You've got some decent readers, CW!

Second.. WE ARE NOT GERMAN! The Netherlands inhabited by the DUTCH may be confusing, but not the same.. I already discovered this mix up when I worked abroad..

Thirdly.. Santa en Sinterklaas are two very different characters. So yes, our Santa looks weird. Because he is not Santa!

Fourthly.. You will get physically injured by calling someone coloured?
Sounds like some people need to start looking at people, not at words..

Fifthly... Zwarte Piet in modern Holland is meant as a kind and clownesque person who entertains children, helps Sinterklaas and hands out candy..

I could think of some more, but I won't.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZwolsche Diva


"Americans are terrible because they had slaves. But the Dutch that kidnapped and traded these slaves have some sort of mysterious moral high ground because they didn't use them themselves."

I read all the comments as well, some of them multiple times, and I do wonder where you got this from. You're likely referring to the person who claimed that there were no slaves in the Netherlands. S/he, however, did NOT deny that the Dutch were notorious slave traders; neither did s/he imply that the fact that Dutch people themselves did not own black slaves made them somehow morally superior to the Americans who did. The only point said commenter was making was that black people are simply not linked to slavery in the Dutch general consciousness.

Do read what others say before you feel all offended, please.

Also, just to repeat my point for everyone: the origin of Black Pete is not linked to slavery or oppression in any way. Black Pete is WAY older, and is technically an Arab (if you go for the non-sooty version of the story).

So will you please all stop condemning the Black Pete tradition as an obvious sign of our total lack of remorse about our slave trading days? It's not related, people.

And for the record: I deeply wish for our government to officially apologise to the people of Suriname for our country's role in the horrors of slave trade. I'm not denying anything or trying to brush over the ugly parts of our history - in fact, I feel that by not issuing an official apology, we allow them to live on. And I know a lot of Dutch people who feel the same way (except for the government, really).

But Zwarte Piet simply does not have anything to do with it.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHanna

Check out the "Africancito" cyclops in the back! At least give the man an eyepatch or something.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm from Belgium so I also know the tradition of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. I think an important thing to remember is that it's not MEANT to be racist at all. Nobody means any harm with it. Children (and adults) love Zwarte Piet, nowadays he is the good natured, goofy, loveable sidekick of the more serious and scary Sinterklaas. Zwarte Piet hands out candy and gives you presents.

I really don't know anyone who associated Zwarte Piet with actual people of colour. He's just a sidekick who happens to be black of skin (because he's Moorish or because of soot, as you can read there are several explanations for that).

I agree the cakes look exaggerated and more like a caricature, but that's what cartoonish cakes do. A cake of Sinterklaas would look nothing like the real thing, either.

I think it's sad that America has a history which makes innocent traditions such as Sinterklaas seem racist. That really is not the point of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet.

I know the Netherlands and Belgium are not innocent when it comes to racism, not in the past and not now. Nowadays racism is more aimed at people of foreign countries, especially Muslims. I don't know anyone who's prejudiced against black people.

I really like that the word verification for this post is 'mingles'!

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Don't know if it has been mentioned already, but in the Netherlands we have Sinterklaas AND Santa Claus. Both of them. Cakes and presents twice!

Oh, and Zwarte Piet is actually a nice guy. Him punishing kids who have been bad may have been tradition, but for years all he has been doing is being nice and giving out candy. Lots of it.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeanine

@ Capability
I'm black. I'm offended.
Its disgusting and its justified for anyone with any true morals to be offended.
We have had to deal with stupidity TOO much TOO often.
Funny, if I made a cake with a snaggle toothed white person with a receding hairline and a potbelly holding his Catholic cross in one hand,a KKK hood in the other and a Palin for President t-shirt, I bet you wouldnt be able to find the horrified humor in that

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNoeWi

I cant believe I recommended this site to my friends. Never again.
It wasnt funny at all.
No matter what he was supposed to be. Slavery wasnt funny.
Whats next Auschwitz victims pulling the sleigh??
WTH Cakewrecks! That was a really stupid decision u made

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oh yeah, Geert Wilders.. That guy needs to have a cake wrecked for him..

Seriously, I do not know what he is driving at with his political statements.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZwolsche Diva

The equivalent of Black Peter in, I think, Germany is Krampus. He's sort of the dark side of St. Nicholas and he is the one who punishes naughty girls and boys. Doesn't mean he can't have a fine ride though.

Bruce T.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

OK, I'm Dutch, and I grew up with this tradition, and I don't think I ever even connected zwarte Piet with black people. I understand that it's shocking to see from a US point of view, with a lot of really intense racial tension really close in history, but over here that is just different, and I have never sensed any malice or derision in zwarte Piet's existence or portrayal.
In fact Piet is really cool, runs the show for silly old forgetful Sinterklaas, and gives you candy. During the big arrival event you'll see hundreds of kids dressing up as Piet, because Piet is AWESOME. Nobody wants to dress up like the old fogey in red!

Does that make it okay? Probably not. It's not PC and I doubt it ever will be. And those cakes are horrible just on principle. Fugly!
I'm just trying to bring across that while yes, this tradition features a black man (Moorish according to tradition) as assistant of Sinterklaas, through the eyes of Dutch tradition this does not carry the negative connotation it will have as seen through American eyes.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwen

Dea said:

Yeah, because the Dutch ever did anything like, say, capture and sell people into slavery or anything....they just never had to live with the aftermath, eh?

Nobody will deny that, but it is much, MUCH less recent, and therefore embedded in the Dutch common conscious in a completely different way.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwen

David Sedaris has a short story on this strange, strange tradition. I believe it's called "Six to Eight Black Men" as that's the number of black helpers Sinterklaas has. It's an estimation.
Anyway, if Pete's black because he's covered in soot, what's with the gold hoop earrings, Dutch people?

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterC

OK, so I stopped reading the comments after about 20.
I don't find this offensive...uncomfortably funny, yes. HOWEVER what I really want to know is how you make your mango mojitos....

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFlashnflaky

I don't see anything wrong with you posting this. You make it clear that you think perpetuating racist imagery is wrong. If anything, not talking about it and pushing it under a rug in order to be PC is wrong. These things are better when they're confronted and talked about rationally. And finding humor in blatantly bigoted behavior, I believe, is the best way to acknowledge that these cakes and traditions are absolutely ridiculous and a bad choice.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Regardless of whether the traditions have a racist origin (which is not the same as being racist NOW), I'm disappointed that a blog about CAKE that I enjoyed for so long felt the need to become political and denigrate a culture they obviously don't care to fully understand.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCole

I was just rereading some comments and thinking that racism really comes down to intention, not to imagery. Zwarte Piet is, certainly in the last few decades, a positive figure in the tradition. There is no malice or derision in his (or her) portrayal. Therefore to my eyes it is not racist.

It may LOOK racist to those who are used to seeing such imagery having racist intention. But that doesn't mean that the intention is irrevokably connected to the imagery outside your own culture.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwen

Not that anyone will actually read what I'm saying, seeing the knee-jerk reactions here, but really, delve a little bit deeper into the tradition and you will find:

Black Peter (Zwarte Peter, Zwarte Paiter, Zwarte Piet) was the name used for the devil from before the time Dutch people even knew that black people existed. It goes so far back into tradition that its origins can only be guessed at. The one thing that is certain is that the reason the devil was given a name was because it was bad luck to call upon the devil by using the word devil.

Best academic guess at the moment is that the Zwarte Peter was black because he lurked in shadows and would enter the house by any means possible, and often this was the chimney as the only opening into the house.

Zwarte Piet started off as the embodiment of evil being subdued by good (the church defeating the devil), a tale that stood the church in good stead.

Over the course of many, many years, Zwarte Piet was modeled on moors, which explains his clothing. He used to be portrayed as a decrepit creature overcome by the church (in the shape of Saint Nicholas).

The "blackface" is not blackface. It is a theatrical rendition of the blackness of evil, as embodiment of a creature of the night. NOT as a black human being!

Even more recently Zwarte Piet has involved into an indispensible part of Saint Nicholas' life, as he and the other Pieten ensure that Saint Nicholas doesn't forget a child on that one eve where he rides the roofs on his white horse to drop presents down the chimney.

Zwarte Piet has evolved from being the devil subdued by the church in a time before Dutch people were Dutch as we know it today and even knew there were black people, to a child's greatest friend and the person without whom Saint Nicholas could not do his work on December 5.

Zwarte Piet has nothing whatsoever to do with black people and only marginally something to do with soot.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

love your Albi the Racist dragon reference.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeachy

This is kind of like the Texas Councilman who was offended that black holes were called black holes because he was black. The Zwarte cakes have nothing to do with Black people, from what i've read.

just because something that seems racist is brought to the public attention doesn't mean that the message itself is racist. Please read the entire entry before getting on your moral high horse.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpeachy

It's not Zwarte Piet the character that is so offensive - it's the WAY the cakes are made, HOW he is depicted. If he's "just a moor" or "just dusted with soot," then why the gigantic lips? Why the hair type? THAT is where the "horror" could just possibly be coming from.

And to say that "it happened so long ago" makes it ok, that's bs. I could say the same thing about the holocaust, but I sure am not about to do so. Because it's hurtful to someone.

Heaven forbid people be expected to give a crap about another human's feelings, eh?

I love the Voltaire quote, though, because dang tooting right on that count - I'll disagree, but I sure won't say you're not allowed to believe/act how you want to act. Just don't get offended if your custom is teased/has sarcastic comments made about it. Because that is OUR right as those who don't think it's such a "nice little tradition."

The good old days stunk, just ask the people who had bad eyesight, the plague, or were serfs. That's why sometimes, maybe, JUST MAYBE - "old timey" traditions just might not be what they're cracked up to be.

I just can't understand the argument regarding the slave trading vs having slaves - which is worse. Er, um - they're both horrible parts of our common human history. Period. And it's sad that we, as a human species, haven't learned from history. We still have people who will try to enslave entire groups of people, or steal their land, or control their lives, etc. It's sad.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDea

I find it interesting that people who say that Europeans don't have the same "hang-ups" Americans do are always white.

Funny that.

Also, John: Excellent response @ 7/9/09, 9:36!

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngel H.

The one thing that keeps bugging me is that everyone seems to think that the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas at Christmas time. That is just completely wrong. Sinterklaas evening takes place on the 5th of December (6th in Belgium) and after that the store windows get redecorated into the Christmas theme. There are a lot of families celebrating both Sinterklaas and the American kind of tradition of Christmas (with presents under the tree).

Sinterklaas arrives by boat in the Netherlands in november. From that time on kids are allowed to put there shoe by the chimney to get some small presents like their initial in chocolate.
On the 5th there is the big celebration of Sinterklaas' birthday and then a big bag of presents will be put in front of the home. Of course the story to the children is that Zwarte Piet has put it there (in fact, most neighbours put it there and knock on the door a few times).
When the kids don't believe in Sinterklaas anymore many families chose to make each other gift 'surprises' in odd shapes with a poem that goes along with it. In that poem you are free to mention the more delicate subjects ;-)

The question about Zwarte Piet being racist or not pops up every year but it never really changes. Attempts to put in multi-coloured Piets never worked and I think we really don't have the same sentiments regarding white people wearing black paint on their faces like Americans do.
I can understand why it's being frowned upon by a lot of people who don't get the tradition and don't know the history of it but I really think that is due to the fact that there are significant differences in cultures concerning subjects such as racism. You can't just look at other cultural practices without taking some consideration towards the tradition and history it stams from.

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarakim

Am I number 300?
Fact: the black people involved in Durch society (Surinamese) don't mind. Nor do I.

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDhr. DeLuxe

Just wanted to mention that I just came back from the Netherlands, and while there, I visited the Rijksmuseum, which is mostly closed for renovations right now. However, a small portion of the collection has been arranged into a special exhibit so that the museum can continue to take visitors during this renovation.

What might be the subject of this exhibition? Well, the Dutch conquests of the 17th to 19th century! While I met many, many wonderful Dutch people, I also can't ignore the impression of the country as a whole given by the exhibit, which is:
1) We are unapologetic about our role in slave trade.
2) If we touch something once, we own it (people included).
3) We are very, very proud of the fact that we were an economic superpower due to our willingness to have no scruples whatsoever (steal from indigenous people to sell their goods to the world? awesome! steal the people themselves and sell them into a life of misery? even better! Whaling? Well, we just emptied our ship of it's human cargo, so why the hell not!)

I just- well, as a born and bred Southerner who feels the constant need to apologize for some idiots a hundred and fifty years ago who did atrocious things in the name of economy, I was *appalled* that the Dutch state art museum was so incredibly flippant (and downright callous and offensive at points) about it's role in such a beastly part of world history.

All of this is just to say that after seeing the museum, I am not at all surprised that this is a part of their culture (even though I knew of Schwartz Pete a long before I went there). I am just not at all surprised. I always kind of wondered about the Schwartz Pete tradition- is it just some sort of jovial cultural thing that they don't get, like they just as a whole don't understand how offensive it is? But in truth, from my (albeit limited) experience, it's not that there isn't an understanding of offense- it's flat out pride. And that is sad. And scary.

July 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate

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