|Het Sint Nicolasfeest, Jan Steen. Image via Kunst en Cultuur|
As a fairly integrated foreigner, I try to roll with the differences in culture without succumbing to or becoming an apologist for the aspects I find less than acceptable. I like to think I do the same with American culture, too, although it is tougher when you're on the inside trying to observe your own sense of identity with a critical eye. I told Niek that we could celebrate Sinterklaas with Johanna if he wanted to, but that I would draw the line at letting her wear a Zwarte Piet costume or ever, ever, ever wearing blackface. Seriously, that is just not going to happen. I'll happily explain to her when she's old enough to understand why it isn't acceptable.
I think we would have let Sinterklaas pass this year without any sort of celebration if we hadn't been invited to a party at our friends' house. It was a pretty serious affair replete with a visit from Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet themselves. My friend's brother-in-law filled the role of Sinterklaas and her brother happily dressed up to play the part of Zwarte Piet.
Here's a pic of Piet getting ready to throw the pepernoten (the hard, spice cookies) to the crowd.
Here's Niek showing me how it's done. Good times. All the adults got the traditional chocolate letters. My "D" was pretty delicious.
Honestly, this is my favorite pictures from the entire day. Sinterklaas, at its heart, is a child-centered holiday, and every parent wants to capture the memories of childhood. With the explosion in popularity of the smartphone has come the instantaneous record keeping of daily life done en masse.
That was our first Sinterklaas celebration as a family. I still don't know how to broach the subject of Zwarte Piet with the Dutch. For the most part I just look at all the Piet decorations and the Piet costumes with a mixture of awe and irritation. However, I love seeing how excited all the kids get about Sinterklass visiting and their anticipation for the likely gifts they'll receive. The kids were so cute and really bought into the theatrical display of their beloved Sint. I'll have to see how Johanna reacts next year when a towering man in a miter tries to lure her onto his lap with candy and presents.