My proposal is to change “Santa Claus” into “Kidda Claus” and also allow for “Kidda Claudia”. This solves two issues of discrimination, namely those of religion and male chauvinism. A third issue is solved as well since Kidda Claus or Claudia don’t have to be Caucasian but can have any background. Since Kidda Claus can take any form, also the present Santa is acceptable, which should comform traditionalists. But institutions are encouraged to be politically correct. Hopefully Hollywood takes notice too. A gradual change is optimal of course.
This proposal dates from November 12 1992 when I presented a story at the Benelux Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention. The PDF has been on my website for years, and in 2012 I turned it in a small booklet (in Dutch). The booklet is rather expensive because of the printing-on-demand setting so I am looking for a big publisher and retail market chain.
To understand the origins of Kidda Claus and Claudia, get the book When Santa was a Shaman by Tony van Renterghem. Arnold-Jan Scheer has an amusing video about celebrations all over Europe, also with brawls and beating of women.
The celebration dates back to prehistory. The sun dies in winter and must be saved at midwinter. The spirits of darkness devour the sun and they must be shied away with a lot of noise or be caught in chains. Wodan rides the sky on his horse. Fertility is at stake too and therefor there must be offerings. Thanks to the big party, the sun recovers. We see this also in the icon of Father Time, who grows old and dies, and is reborn as the baby New Year. We see it also reflected in the birth of Christ, see my book The simple mathematics of Jesus (2012).
When Christianity arrived, the Church tried to stop the heathen noise, brawls and offerings. The festivity was too popular however. For young men in particular the beating of young fertile women was too attractive. Therefor a priest took over the role of Wodan & shaman and joined the party to control the crowd. Saint Nicholas carries a staff just in case a beating is still required.
In Holland Saint Nicholas still rides his horse and is surrounded by people with black faces. The spirits of darkness however have transformed into Moorish helpers with elaborate costumes of the Spanish court, from the 1500s when Holland was part of the Habsburg empire. Dutch children are told the story that Saint Nicholas lives in Spain and comes to Holland by steamship to celebrate his birthday of December 6. He rides the rooftops and his helpers come down the chimneys. In the USA, Santa Claus is no bishop anymore and has lost his staff, horse and black helpers, and now has elves and reindeer, but actually competes with Christ on December 25.
The important comparative advantage of the Dutch celebration is that people write poems to go with their gifts, and that there can also be mockery gifts, e.g. a big box that contains ever smaller boxes. Family members may make fun of each other, and you are supposed to enjoy being mocked as much as all the others. Hence everyone has a high stake in designing a present. It is not just something from a shop but a personal gift with a targetted poem. The New Year cabaret show is the national Kidda Claus poem that makes fun of national events and politics. These elements cause that the celebration is hugely popular. An aspect is that the American Santa tends to give presents that are ever more expensive, and Dutch people tend to dislike expensive presents when they are not on the receiving side.
Holland will not switch to Santa Claus. My proposal in 1992 was to change the Dutch “Sinterklaas” into “Kinderklaas” or “Kinderklazien”, and secondly the Dutch “Zwarte Piet” into “Malle Piet” or “Malle Pieternel” – translated as “Funny Pete” or “Funny Petra”. Malle Piet has any background or be made up in any colour. He might frighten kids a bit by threatening to put disobedient kids into a sack and carry them to Spain, but perhaps we must reconsider this too. The modern Funny Pete makes children laugh – perhaps by being a bit silly at times, but mostly by good jokes, perhaps when Kidda Claus is being a bit silly.
This year Holland has a fierce debate about Zwarte Piet. See e.g. the Volkskrant newspaper today. The singer Anouk, whom I reported upon earlier, argued for abolishing Zwarte Piet but was hit by a tsunami of hate mail. The United Nations Human Rights has a Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and its chairperson Verene Shepherd has written a letter to the Dutch government asking what is being done about complaints on discrimination. The Kidda Claus festivity is meant to be a joyful event for children but can be traumatic for kids of non-Caucasian background when other kids call them names like “Zwarte Piet”. Perhaps the Dutch government can report that they have been neglecting a good suggestion since 1992.
Below are some tv screen shots from the arrival of Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten in Scheveningen harbour, last Saturday. He is welcomed by Jozias van Aartsen, the mayor of The Hague and former minister of Foreign Affairs. It would be incorrect of the Dutch government to hold that it is only a people’s celebration and that there is no official involvement.
This is a close up, and notice the blackface & black minstrel make up. A woman dressed up as Zwarte Piet still is called “Zwarte Piet”. Children don’t quite notice that “Piet” is not commonly a name for a woman. At a certain age, they grow aware of the inconsistencies but then develop a taste for making mockery presents and poems.
At a discussion by Joop.nl and Arminius in Rotterdam, the screen showed a satire of Dutch Premier Mark Rutte who explains Black Pete to President Obama. Compliments to the satirists Ulftingenwest. Dutch readers might look at my review of that discussion in Rotterdam. Holland seems to be stuck in a debate about abolishing YES or NO, while it would be much better to make a few but crucial evolutionary changes.