On Saturday November 12 Sinterklaas and his Petes arrived in The Netherlands. They will stay until Sinterklaas’ birthday on December 5th. During this time, children put out their shoe occasionally and it will be filled with a small toy or some candy. On December 5th they’ll receive a couple of larger presents.
A colleague gave me a Pete costume to dress up in that his own children had outgrown and this now sort of fits my oldest daughter. She was so excited when I got it out and put it on immediately. My youngest got a little bit jealous but it is way way way too large for her. I thought she was mostly jealous of the hat, so I decided to see if I could make her one so they can both dress up.
I googled for a pattern and used the first tutorial that came up. There may be better ones but this one fit the “easy, quick and I (sort of) have all the materials in my stash” bill. I used a remnant of interlock knit, a silver decorative ribbon thing, felt and some elastic. The hat is basically a circle with a tunnel for the elastic with the ribbon stitched on in a circle and a feather sticking out from under the ribbon. I didn’t have a real feather so I cut a feather-like shape from felt.
For over a decade now, there has been controversy around the Petes, Sinterklaas’ helpers. Until several years ago the face of most of the Petes was painted completely black. They enter houses through the chimney to put gifts in children’s shoes and they turn black from crawling through all those chimneys. The black was very stereotypical though and usually accompanied by large golden earrings, curly wigs and big red painted lips. It caused pain to many people in the black community.
When this controversy started, I did not really get what all the fuss was about since Sinterklaas is just a fun children’s holiday. I’ve changed my opinion over the years though. A holiday that causes pain to other people is not ok, especially when there are easy solutions to make it fun for everyone. It is good to see that most of the Netherlands is now free from completely black Petes. They are now simply smeared a bit in the face to create a sooty look and have lost the other stereotypical items as well. Rather ironically, I think this change is for a large part due to the people that are most passionate about keeping the blackface tradition. In their protests in favour of the blackface they have been rather exceptional at proving just exactly why it is very much a racist stereotype that should disappear.
I am glad that my children now get to enjoy the magic of Sinterklaas with sooty Petes. It is really fun to see how they get into the story and are excited about putting their shoes out and wondering what kind of gift they’ll get this time. And now they both have their very own Pete hat.
On a completely unrelated note, this is probably the last blog post that I will publish on this blog. I am setting up a new website and all blog posts that were published here will be moved to infectiousstitches.com. I hope I will be able transfer everything so that you still get a notification when a new post appears on the new website. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss anything you can sign up for my newsletter and will be among the first to know that the new website is live!