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This weekend in Belgium, the annual tradition of The Feast of Saint Nicholas will be celebrated, but not without controversy. Black Pete, a character Belgians will imitate using racist blackface makeup and curly Afro wigs, will accompany “Sinterklass” aka Saint Nicholas, who is depicted as a kind figure who gives sweets and gifts to children.

In the Netherlands, which Belgium borders, the annual rite was celebrated yesterday. The Belgian version of the celebration happens today. The character of Black Pete is based on a Moor from Spain, hence the blackface and Afro wig. However, revelers take it to questionable levels by applying red lipstick as well.

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In Belgium, the feast celebration isn’t as widely celebrated as it is in the Netherlands, but even country officials join in on the madness. This summer, anti-racist activist Mouhad Reghif  became the target of die-hard fans of the tradition for actively calling out its offensive roots. An annual parade celebrating the biblical story of David versus Goliath, includes a dark-skinned character with a nose ring bound in chains known as “The Savage,” that is used to symbolize evil.

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Belgians are well aware of the critiques. But because the  feast caters to small children and has been a joyous celebration,  few believe that the country will ever do away with the tradition.

 

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