For the second time in a row, the traditional arrival of St. Nicholas in the Netherlands on Saturday was affected by Corona. The welcoming ceremony for the Sinterklaas, as the saint with the white beard and the red bishop’s cloak is called there, had to take place without the usual rush of visitors.
Only a few children and mayors of several cities were allowed to receive him in front of his temporary official residence, the Palais Soestdijk – a castle in the municipality of Baarn. According to legend, every November Sinterklaas travels by steamboat from Spain to the Netherlands, where he rides a white horse over the roofs. His helpers crawl through chimneys and bring presents to children. Several local Sinterklaas events are planned until the big Christmas presents on December 5th, in compliance with corona protection regulations.
The arrival of the saint was again connected with a dispute over his black assistants – the “Zwarten Pieten”. The action group “Kick Out Zwarte Piet” sees the traditional black make-up in page costumes as discrimination against black people. At a local event in Breda with – as a compromise offer – gray instead of black make-up, the group protested with slogans such as “Even gray women are racism”. According to the ANP news agency, the police temporarily arrested several participants in a counter-demonstration because they did not obey the request to withdraw. (APA / dpa / red)