Update! Found video that gives you an idea of what goes on during this ‘celebration.’ It is in Dutch, however.
According to Encarta:
The Dutch Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, is the immediate forebear of the North American Santa Claus. According to legend, Sinterklaas makes his rounds on December 5, Saint Nicholas’s Eve. He is sometimes said to be accompanied by a figure named Black Peter, who carries a whip with which to chastise naughty children. Here, dressed in a bishop’s robes, Sinterklaas rides through the streets distributing sweets to the children.
Interestingly in the little bit about Black Peter, Encarta also says this:
(Santa) He was depicted wearing a bishop’s robes and was said to be accompanied at times by Black Peter, an elf whose job was to whip the naughty children.
This ‘legend’ involving Black Peter gave to it or him meting out punishment for bad behavior and/or stealing naughty children from homes.
Interestingly, depictions of Black Peter became an early form of political satire. St. Nick’s devilish little helper was often dressed in Spanish clothing. It is thought that Peter’s attire Was: a subtle protest against the Spanish rule of Holland during this era. Adding to this theory is the legend that the place to which Black Peter would take the errant children after their abduction was none other than Spain itself.
As one caption partially explains on, “Some see the character as a nasty and racist emblem of the country’s colonial past.” As hopefully most of us can recall, Holland (The Netherlands) has quite a colonial past from North to South America to the tip of Africa to Asia under the vestiges of the Dutch West India Company & the Dutch East India Company…..Suriname, Indonesia, Aruba, Jakarta, Borneo, and others in that area ….
Wow – what a tradition. I’m stunned it’s allowed to continue.