Santa’s Slave Parade

Last Sunday it was Amsterdam’s annual Sinterklaas parade, when the Saint and his ‘helpers’ arrive on the boat from Spain and parade through the streets of Amsterdam distributing sweets and biscuits to the children lining the route.

As Nicholas is the patron saint of the city (as well as children and sailors) there is an amazing turn-out along the roads leading from the harbour through to Leidseplein, where he delivers a benediction from the balcony. Hundreds of blacked-up men, women and children also march along the route, representing Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) – variously described as a defeated devil, Ethiopian slave-boy, or a chimney-sweeping servant. Whatever the genesis of the Sint’s companion, it’s definitely one of the oddest things an ex-pat in Amsterdam is likely to see…

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