The Netherlands: a divisive Christmas tradition?

The dispute over the Santa Claus festival in the Netherlands has taken on a new dimension. There were violent incidents in several cities at demonstrations for and against the "Black Pete" character who accompanies Santa Claus in the traditional festivities. Santa Claus arrives by ship in mid-November and travels across the Netherlands until 5 December.

Open/close all quotes
NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

A discredited tradition

The climate is getting harsher, NRC Handelsblad laments:

“The summary: 62 arrests, racist comments, abuse, demonstrators had to be brought to safety. And in those places that remained calm heavy security measures were in place and dozens of police had been deployed. It was as if in every city a high-risk top-league game was being played. Was this a competition to see where people were angriest? ... The fact is that the Sinterklaas festival has created a new tradition: demonstrating for or against the 'Black Pete' symbol.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Hooligans' violence being rewarded

De Volkskrant also laments that a children's festivity has lost its innocence:

“Although the opponents of Black Pete were attacked, it's they who have the upper hand. They've managed to turn Pete into a political issue, and in the process the tradition has lost its natural character. ... As for the football fans, unfortunately they will also have achieved one of their goals. Anti-Pete demonstrations during the Sinterklaas parade will become more difficult, because no doubt the mayors will feel obliged to ban them. ... It's extremely unfortunate that the hooligans' violence is being rewarded in this way.”