Letters to the Editor

Cultural celebration eradicated

New Westminster organizers cancelled their Dutch Christmas celebration after racial criticism over Zwarte Piet. - File photo
New Westminster organizers cancelled their Dutch Christmas celebration after racial criticism over Zwarte Piet.
— image credit: File photo

Editor:

I could not believe my eyes when I read the Sinterklaas celebrations in New Westminster had been cancelled due to complaints from a select few in regards to the helpers the Saint has, based on the colour of their skin.

Having Dutch roots – I left Holland in my late 20s and became a Canadian citizen in my early 30s – it is needless to say this bothers me tremendously that in my new home country, which is supposed to be a multicultural society, my celebration gets cancelled, while all the other celebrations simply continue, no matter what my opinion on these celebrations is; which is a good thing, as they should continue because they matter to the people that attend them.

The event in question attracts on average 200 to 300 people and does not require any policing or mayors to scoop the spotlight, and neither does it require complete street closures for blocks on end. We celebrate without bothering anyone and encouraging anyone to participate by celebrating this in a public space.

This annual celebration is set up by a group of selfless volunteers who dedicate hours on end to bring groups of families together for this itsy bit of culture, and they have been told their efforts are in vain for some silly reason.

I am left to explain to my six-year-old daughter that in this free, multicultural country, her special celebration has been eradicated; yet in the public school system, she is forced to learn and participate in all the other different cultural events.

The country has become so stifled by political correctness that last year in our school they celebrated every other cultural event, except for the two that refer to her roots, which are Sinterklaas and Aboriginals Day.

Most certainly that has to be a joke and, let there be no mistake about it, it’s the worst joke of the century.

I guess the most idiotic part of this whole cancellation story is the following:

A certain scholar and organizer for Black History Month was quoted as stating Zwarte Piet – Black Pete – comes loaded with offensive and racist stereotypes.

If that is indeed the case, then the following should be noted from history that when Saint Nicolas arrived in Spain in the 1600s, Spain was under rule of the Moorish empire, which was African. This would explain why the Petes during the celebration are dressed in Moorish costumes from that time. Saint Nicolas was a Greek Bishop of Myra, which is now Turkey. This sounds all like Multiculturalism 101 to me.

The feast was an occasion to help the poor by putting money in their shoes, and many parties – the foundation of Carnival as we know it now. All in all, this seems like a very valid reason to allow celebrations to take place.

The cancelation has ruined a very special cultural celebration for many families in the Lower Mainland.

I hope that this will go in the history books as well, and that we might be educated in 50 years from now, during Black History Month, that one man has eradicated a cultural festivity for a group of people that works hard at accepting every culture around them, try their best at being good citizens, simply because he took offence and did not bother to get his story straight.

 

Geert Bos, Surrey

 



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