The end of Sinterklaas?

Open letter to Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Verene Shepherd


Dear Ms Shepherd,

I’m writing this in concern to your statements about Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). Although I’m sure you will never read it. As you seen way too busy to try to ban things that you know nothing about. For someone who says she’s a researcher you’ve sure seem to have done very little research into this matter. So let me tell you a bit about the history of Sinterklaas (or Sint Nicolaas).

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet:
Sinterklaas or Sint Nicolaas is based on the Bishop of Myra, who was a historic 4th-century saint. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. He’s the patron saint for children, amongst others.
Originally, the Sinterklaas feast celebrates the name day, 6 December, of Sint Nicolaas. Half of his bones are buried in Bari, a town in southwestern Italy. In the middle ages this part of Italy was part of the Kingdom of Aragon and later of Spain.
Sinterklaas is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful Moorish dresses. During the Middle-ages Zwarte Piet was a name for evil. Nowadays, the tasks of the Zwarte Pieten are mostly to amuse children, and to scatter pepernoten, kruidnoten and strooigoed (special sinterklaas candy) for those who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools, and other places. Sinterklaas arrives on a (steam) boat from Madrid with Zwarte Piet and his horse Amerigo.

Children and Sinterklaas:
Traditionally, in the weeks between his arrival and 5 December, before going to bed, children put their shoes, traditionally next to the fireplace chimney or the radiator, near a window.
The next day they will find some candy or a small present in their shoes.
On the evening of December 5th, the children will get toys, chocolate (can be dark, might be white, do you have any problems with dark chocolate Ms Shepherd?) and marzipan. In the olden days, if you were naughty you would get a lump of coal (which is also black) or a bit of salt.
Adults and older kids give each other presents, accompanied with poems.

History of Santa Claus:
I’ve read on more than one occasion you, Ms Shepherd, have said:

What’s wrong with one Santa Claus, why have two Santa’s?

Really Ms Shepherd? Really? Have you done any research at all into the history of your Santa Claus? Because I don’t think you have. You are just being narrow-minded and you must think you are always right. Let me tell you what came first.
Your Santa is derived from Sint Nicolaas (the name is a dead giveaway). The Dutch, who set up a colonial town, on the banks of the Hudson River, called New Amsterdam (it’s now called New York) took their traditions to their new homeland. But to have Sinterklaas arrive from Spain was a bit much, so over the years the traditional Sinterklaas feast was transformed to Santa Claus.

This would mean that we should ban Santa Claus, as he’s clearly an impersonator of Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is the “real” one, Santa is not. Just because you get your gifts from Santa, doesn’t mean we Dutch should go along with that. You are not always right, Ms Shepherd!

Is Zwarte Piet racism? 

As a black person, if I were living in the Netherlands I would object to it. As a member of the working group, I am obliged to do further investigation.

Why am I not surprised Ms Shepherd? You have always plaid the racism card, why is that? Because you’re black? Do you feel you have to protect your people from all evil? I’ve worked in many stores and from what I’ve seen the black population plays the racism card ten times more than other minority groups. I’m sorry I have to say this, but it’s true. So I’m not at all surprised you’ve plaid the racism card.

I don’t think Zwarte Piet is racism. Do you really think Zwarte Piet depicts black people? Do you wear a large afro, big earhoops and do you wear very bright red lipstick that covers almost half your face? If the answer to all these questions is yes, I’d say it’s racism. But I’ve seen pictures of you, Ms Shepherd, and I don’t think you look even close to Zwarte Piet.
I wear glasses, but does that make me look like Dame Edna? No, it doesn’t. Same goes for black people and Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Pieten are mostly white people who wear huge amounts of make up to look black. Which makes it look ridiculous. Black people are much nicer to look at (well, most of them, but that goes for white people as well).

Santa Claus:
Santa has helpers too, Ms Shepherd. Little helpers. They are called elves, but are plaid by dwarves in many occasion. Wouldn’t that be more racist than putting make up on white people?
For pictures of these “elves” you might want to go here. Tell me what’s more disturbing Ms Shepherd? I’d say the “elves” are…

Sinterklaas/Santa Claus:

So, let me get this straight Ms Shepherd.

Sinterklaas has jolly helpers called Zwarte Pieten, white people who put on make up to look black. Santa Claus has little helpers called elves, but they’re really dwarves.

Sinterklaas has one horse, a domesticated animal. Santa has a bunch of reindeer, wild animals which he keeps locked up.

Sinterklaas Sinterklaas lives in Spain, a nice and warm place for such an old man. Santa lives somewhere on the North pole, but nobody knows exactly where.
Trading standards can visit Sinterklaas to see if he takes good care of his workers, but they can’t visit Santa, as nobody knows where he’s at.

Sinterklaas has a normal posture. Santa is extremely obese.

Tell me which one is better!?

All in all:
I think you’re claim to Zwarte Piet being racism is clearly ridiculous. I can understand you are hurt by your ancestors suffering under slavery. I can understand you feel the need to protect your heritage. But can you please leave an innocent celebration, one that makes so many children happy, alone? You are not always right Ms Shepherd, even if you think you are!



Boxes and boxes of books…

Last week I bid on a bunch of books. One seller sold 2 boxes for € 1. The other sold 8 for € 10. I didn’t think I would get them, so I was a bit surprised when I got 2 emails telling me I could come and collect them.

Yesterday we set off for a city some 25 kilometers away to collect the 2 boxes. The woman who sold them didn’t want any money when we came there. I had told her in an email I’d use the books for BookCrossing and she liked the idea so much I got them for free. She did put all of the books into one box, so I only collected 1 box.
We then drove to a small town closer to home where we collected the remaining 8 boxes. I paid them a tenner and we loaded the boxes in the car. It fit. Just.

Today I went to look what’s inside them. It didn’t disappoint. A few aren’t crossable, but 99% are very much crossable. I’ve decided to give a bunch of boxes away to fellow BookCrossing members, as I have lots of books left in the attic. I know many people will want a box, so I think they’ll fly out of here. This will make Jay very happy as he was worried about the room we have left up in the attic.


Claire, over at 20somethingmum, did a great blog post about how she loves kitchenalia. I love kitchenalia too. I’ve thought about a blog post like this for a long time. Claire’s made me go ahead and do it.

So, why am I so in love with kitchenalia? Simple, it makes life a whole lots easier. And more fun. I love baking and cooking. But I didn’t do it as often as I do now. The reason being I didn’t have good appliances. The last combi microwave we had didn’t a good job with the oven. It left cakes and pies raw on the inside. So I didn’t make them.

When we got married my mom let me choose a wedding gift. I had been looking at a new combi microwave for quiet some time, but the prices put me off. When my mom offered I chose one that could do everything I wanted it to, for a modest budget. I chose the Whirlpool JT 379 IX. I wanted one with a ovenlike door. I wanted one that was easy and came with a lot of functions. I wanted a big one, that could easily hold a pie, a cake or one of my giant pizzas. This one could do all of that. Admittedly, I didn’t pay nearly as much as they are selling for on Amazon. And I bought it earlier then the date first available Amazon gives. Which is a bit weird, but there you go. I still think it’s a great buy!


My second gadget that I can’t live without anymore is my food processor. I’ve bought one for my birthday some years ago now and I’ve been using it a lot. It’s the Kenwood FP 736. It came with a lot of attachments. I haven’t been using all of them, but I do use many attachments a lot. There’s three downsides with this food processor. One is the speed. Even the slow speed is quite speedy(…) and that makes it hard to use sometimes. For instance, if I’m making pizza dough, the flower is almost exploding inside the bowl. You can’t start mixing it slowly. There’s no slow speed on it. The second thing is the cleaning. It has a lot of fiddly edges and this makes it harder to clean. The third thing is the rocking when it’s turned on. You see chefs walking away from their machines all the time on tv. Just don’t try that with this one. Stay near it or it will walk off your countertop!
But these things are small compared to what it can do and what it does. I love it and wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Kenwood FP 736

The last thing that has made my life better is actually very simple… It’s an oven mitt. I’ve been having problems in the past with many oven mitts. The Ikea ones were quite good, but not similar in size. Also, they lacked lots of stitching and were quite easy to set on fire…
I then bought some nice ones from an el cheapo shop. These were set on fire the very next day and resulted in some minor, first degree burns on both hands.
The next pair did relatively good until they needed a wash. it ruined them. After that I’d been searching for a good pair, but apparently there’s not a whole lot of reviews on oven mitts… Jay offered me to buy a pair of Flame Guard Flame Retardant Quilted Oven Mitts. At first I wasn’t too sure, especially since they’re quite long. But as I’ve had problems with bear arms touching the inside of a hot oven in the past I said yes. And they work great. They’re quite thick, making it much easier to hold hot stuff. Before, most oven mitts were still getting very hot on the inside. You don’t have to worry about that with these. They will stay cool for a long period. They don’t seem to catch on fire as quickly as some of the others I’ve had. The only downside is their thickness. It makes it hard to keep hold of things like pan lids. But I’d rather have trouble getting hold of a lid than burn my hands (again).

Flameguard oven mitt

What is your favourite kitchenalia?