Patron of Amsterdam, this interpretation of old Saint NICHOLAS has some rather unusual twists. For one thing, he had the bright idea to call Spain his home rather than the frozen North Pole.
And rather than a legion of elves or gnomes under his command, SINTERKLAAS has the sinister Zwarte Pieten. Black Peters, as they were known, originated as SINTERKLAAS’s assistants. But by the early 20th Century they had become something of a racist caricature with a role reminiscent of KRAMPUS, the terrifying monster who stole naughty children.
That idea has largely been excised in today’s culturally sensitive times. Nowadays the Peters’ black faces are cunningly explained away as chimney soot. Such mythological rewriting is as old as the hills, but we cannot totally approve. We would much rather see a black Santa Claus. SINTERKLAAS himself hands out candy and chocolate letters to children. Not many spirits do that. We hope it’s not bribery.