ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Dutch Black Pete and the Hindu Karwa Chauth

Making Sense of Forgotten History and the Scramble for Tradition

Compelling arguments are put forward and intense efforts are made by people to justify certain regressive customs and festivities and somehow align them with the modern sensibilities of equality and humanism. A look at the tradition of Sinterklaas and Black Pete in the Netherlands and the much romanticised fast of Karwa Chauth observed by Hindu women in north India.

Sinterklass and Black Pete Sinterklaas (or Saint Nichols) arrives by boat from Spain to the Netherlands in December with gifts and goodies for young children. Accompanying him are his numerous helpers. School children clap and welcome the Saint and his bag of gifts. Young enthusiasts throng the streets and the event is broadcast on national television. The day is celebrated with grand feasts and much fervour.

Nothing wrong with tradition, one may suggest. The otherwise fun filled ritual however attains a sombre character with the addition of a few details. Sinterklaas is an old white Saint who arrives by boat from Spain to the Netherlands in December with gifts and goodies for young children. Accompanying him are his numerous black servants, known as Zwarte Piet or Black Petes. School children clap and welcome the Saint and his bag of gifts. Young enthusiasts colour their faces black, wear wigs of curly hair and paint their lips bright red and the event is broadcast on national television. The day is celebrated alright.

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