|St. Nicholas Arriving in Amsterdam|
"Sinterklaas & his Zwarte Pieten arrived in Amsterdam two weekends ago. Tradition has it that, after docking his ship (coming from Spain and all), he gets on his white horse and joins the welcoming parade around town. The Zwarte Pieten (singular=Piet) complete this festive scene, handing out peper- and kruidnoten to kids.
Of course, Amsterdam is the bicycle capital of the world, hence, many of the Pieten move around by bike. They know what’s good for them. Which naturally also applies to the parents and kids who came out in droves to join to the celebration. Albeit, on a very wet day."
From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas is a traditional Winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Suriname, Curacao, Bonaire, and Indonesia; he is celebrated annually on Saint Nicholas' eve (5 December) or, in Belgium, on the morning of 6 December. Originally, the feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children, sailors, and the city of Amsterdam, among others. Sinterklaas is the basis of the mythical holiday figure of Santa Claus in the United States.
A Zwarte Piet (Black Pete, plural Zwarte Pieten) is a servant of Sinterklaas, usually an adolescent in blackface with black curly hair, dressed up like a 17-th century page in a colourful dress, often with a lace collar, and donning a feathered cap.
Sinterklaas and his Black Pete usually carry a bag which contains candy for nice children and a roe, a chimney sweep's broom made of willow branches, used to spank naughty children. Some of the older Sinterklaas songs make mention of naughty children being put in the bag and being taken back to Spain. The Zwarte Pieten toss candy around, a tradition supposedly originating in Sint Nicolaas' story of saving three young girls from prostitution by tossing golden coins through their window at night to pay their father's debts. They also climb down chimneys to fill the children's shoes with presents which, according to modern anti-racism tradition, causes their skin to be black.