This is the Dutch Review Home Service
Here is a special bulletin written by Anna Lambregts.
Z-day has come.
Early this morning the Goedheiligman and his band of black-faced brothers began their journey on the north face of Holland’s sandy shores. The first official news came just after quarter past twelve when Supreme Headquarters of the International Timewasting Expeditionary force, usually called ‘SHITE’ from its initials, issued Communique Number One.
This said: under the command of Sint Nicolaas, the crew aboard the vessel known as the ‘Pakjesboot’ has come ashore in Groningen.
Lining the roads of this fair city are thousands of excited children, waiting in anxious anticipation of catching a glimpse of the bearded Saint and his helpers – for the most part oblivious to the controversy that has surrounded the arrival of this man and his much spoken about crew. A discussion that has left the adult population in the Netherlands divided, and no matter which side you are on, it has left this once so innocent children’s festivity tainted.
The analogy I make to D-day is no flippant one. This is Z-day, the day that will predict either the beginning of the end for Zwarte Piet or hopefully take the first steps towards bridging the gap between pro and contra. Let’s hope it doesn’t prove to be one bridge too far.
The way Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet are received today will be crucial in deciding how to proceed in the future and the conduct of both Zwarte Piet objectors and champions will be under close scrutiny.
The first thing that really stands out so far is the lack of black/brown face paint on the children who are otherwise dressed up like Zwarte Piet as usual. The Pieten themselves have the same attire as in previous years, yet curiously missing the gold hoop earrings rendering them almost unrecognizable…ahem.
Dutch Review will be commenting on the proceedings throughout the day and making sure you keep up to date with any and all developments!
As he arrives in Groningen it becomes clear that Sinterklaas’ staff is missing! One of those silly Pieten must have lost it…
Sinterklaas is greeted by the Mayor of Groningen, given a replacement staff from a fancy dress shop with the price-tag still attached. He really saved the day! For what is Sinterklaas without his staff, but a man in a dress with a silly hat on!
Sinterklaas is riding his beautiful white horse Amerigo through the streets of Groningen and receives drawings from the children along the way as the Zwarte Pieten hand out candy.
Sinterklaas and the Pieten stop to listen to an eye watering and cringe worthy ‘rap-medley’ of various traditional Sinterklaas songs.
Sinterklaas’ real staff is returned to him, it remains a mystery to me why it was gone in the first place.
Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Piet stop to enjoy some light entertainment in the form of a circus act performed by some local children. They are surprisingly good.
At the same time two Zwarte Pieten are in a heated discussion about what to do with the staff from the fancy dress shop now that the original has been returned. They decide to throw it in the bin. Shockingly, the silly Zwarte Piet throws the real staff in the bin and takes the fake one with him. Sure didn’t see that one coming!
Panic breaks out as they realise their mistake – to the hilarity of the surrounding children. The bin has already been emptied. Man I wish the garbage men in my town were that quick and efficient…
Oddly there are about a dozen people dressed like Zwarte Pieten, but without the face paint and sporting big black fake moustaches, riding horses in the procession. Apparently they are ‘Spanish Noblemen’.
The staff is revealed to be in a garbage truck, driving around in Groningen somewhere – the horror!
On the Academieplein a large crowd of people have assembled. Sinterklaas is welcomed by a Professor of the University of Groningen. ‘Sam’ a local primary school pupil has a question for the Professor:
“Why does the moon come out at night?”
Good question Sam!
The Professor answers his question by showing him some odd signs held up by a couple of people depicting the moon in different stages of its cycle.
All are left in a state of confusion.
Sinterklaas leaves and continues with the parade.
Cut to a scene where a man steps into the fancy dress shop (I am assuming there must be only one in Groningen?) with the real staff and tries to sell it. It is examined and rendered ‘priceless’ by the man there…
Meanwhile Sinterklaas arrives at the main stage where he is greeted by the Mayor and a huge crowd. To his confusion he is handed the dud staff. A ‘spare’ he is told by Zwarte Piet. As befuddled as he is by the staff, Sinterklaas reassures the children that in his wisdom and experience “things have a way of working out all by themselves”. Just then, he miraculously gets his real staff back for the second time!
“Let’s get this party started!” Sinterklaas then exclaims.
To the tune of traditional Sinterklaas songs, performed by a children’s orchestra, we are left wondering where Sinterklaas’ staff disappeared to, and how it made not one, but two reappearances.
Most of all, we are left wondering what all the fuss was about, but also with optimism, that the festivities the coming weeks can rise above all the controversy and become again what it always was – the stuff of children’s’ nonsensical worries over Sinterklaas’ lost staff, singing traditional songs, spending quality time with your family and just having fun. Not adults bringing their adult hang-ups into the equation and ruining it for everyone.