Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas, his white horse and Zwarte Piet

Christmas is a bit different in Amsterdam. Saint Nicholaas was the patron saint of sailors, and it was in Amsterdam that he became associated with Christmas. In Amsterdam Sint Nicolaas arrives every year from Spain on his great ship, riding a white (or gray) horse. He is accompanied by hundreds of Zwarte Pieten - about 450 this year. Zwarte Piet is from Spain. If you are good, he will bring you exotic gifts from the ship. If you are bad, he will stuff you into a sack and sell you into slavery! It adds a bit more uncertainty to that whole Christmas thing.

Zwarte Pieten on the Dam

What bewildered Eric and I is that these are obviously men in blackface - certainly not very politically correct in the US!

Zwarte Piet with a youngster

My reaction when I first saw the Pieten was a lot like this little guy!

Zwarte Pieten with a youngster

But here it seems to be no big deal.

Zwarte Pieten with two little Pieten

In fact, the kids love Piet. The kids in this crowd were all shouting Piet! Piet! which made them sound like an enormous flock of tiny birds.

Zwarte Pieten on their tricycle

The Sint comes on his horse, but how do the Pieten arrive? Well, being Amsterdam, some just have to come by bicycle.

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Pieten in Albert Cuypstraat

Sinterklaas later came by our area, with a few of the Pieten in tow.

Eric getting koekjes from Zwarte Piet

No sack for Eric! He must have been good this year, Piet is giving him koekjes.

Eric with Sinterklaas

The Sint himself was a bit busy to pose for a picture, but we did get one as his caravan came by.

Eric by Sint and Piet in Madame Tussad's

The Sint and Piet in Madame Tussad's wax museum hold still much better.

Eric posing with Zwarte Piet

We did manage to find a photogenic Piet though, on the Nieuwemarkt.

Piet's pigeons

The things in Piet's cage are multicolored doves. I have no idea what they have to do with anything, but here they are.

On to next photos - Grade B Piet Pix
Back to previous photos - November in Amsterdam
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