A little disclaimer in this article I will not start the discussion if black peat is racist or not and should be forbidden. Black Peat the support person of Saint Nicholas gives candy and presents every year on the 5th of December. It is a tradition in the Netherlands, and also in other places of the world Dutch / Belgium and even France people are coming together to celebrate this event for children. You could compare it with Santa Claus, however we celebrated it before Santa Claus even existed, and Sint Nicholas is coming every year from Spain.
In Tanzania I played black peat with my 3 project mates and some other people who were part of the Dutch community in Accra. In the morning we came together in a house near the Dutch ambassador’s house. This was the place to get ourselves ready, while the children were playing around in the garden of the ambassador’s house.
It is weird to get dressed up as Black Peat while it is 37 degrees outside. The difference as well is that you have to pay attention that every Peat still has enough greasepaint on your face. This temperature makes you sweaty and that isn’t great for the durability of the paint.
The day was amazing. It is fascinating to see that some children are afraid of Black Peat while they grow up in Tanzania. This definitely means that for children Black Peat is just a character, such as a clown. There were some annoying children, who didn’t believe anymore and definitely want to prove to anyone that Black Peat is fake, by pulling up your shirt. Luckily they didn’t succeed.
The Saint Nicholas celebration in London was slightly different. Where in Tanzania it was organised by the Dutch embassy, which makes resources more available and the celebration more formal, in London it was organised by a community. This made it more simplistic but also way nicer to be part off.
In the morning I took the train to Surrey. A place a little bit outside London. The event was organised at a golf court within the forest. Where in Tanzania it was easy to walk over the street, and no one was thinking of racism, you could feel that times have changed now and definitely here in the UK.
Apparently the location from last year doesn’t want them anymore because they don’t find it appropriate. Luckily this golf complex is still a lovely location in nice Victorian style.
Where in Tanzania all the 200 children were present the whole day, in London they split the group in 3 sessions. Around 30 / 40 children per session. Those smaller groups gave me the opportunity to give more direct contact to the children. Besides that who would have thought that I with another girl would be dancing Peat. Me, doing a dance in front of children, and they loved it. They loved to dance with us.
It was amazing to be part of such a Dutch tradition in foreign countries. Unfortunately I am not able to play Black Peat in London this year, but who knows I have time to do this next year. I recommend every Dutch person who is abroad to find an opportunity to play as Black Peat in their country and give those children the best Saint Nicholas they can have.