It’s mid-September. ONLY mid-September. Yesterday I saw mince pies on sale in the local co-op store. In fact, two weeks ago I saw mince pies on sale in one if the big supermarkets, probably Sainsbury’s. But somehow I expect our local co-op to be a little more restrained. And since Hallowe’en appears to have become an acknowledged public festivity, maybe we should get Hallowe’en out of the way before we start selling Christmas stuff.
When I commented yesterday in the co-op that we are still a long way off Christmas, another customer replied with his opinion that mince pies can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Well, no, not really, it seems to me. Some things need to be saved for special occasions. Hot cross buns all year round I heartily agree with as hot cross buns are really just extra-nice fruit teacakes. But mince pies are rather more in the realm of fancy cakes. That’s my view anyway! Eating them all year round would be like having birthday cake all year round.
Christmas has been in the news in the Netherlands as well, every year they have a Saint Nicholas parade in Apeldoorn on November 16th, which also, by the way, is a little early in my opinion. But it’s not the timing that is in the news but the characters who make up the televised parade. Sinterklaas is accompanied by a group of people dressed up as the Swarte Piets, or Black Petes. The Swarte Piets are traditionally white people in blackface make-up.
Inevitably anti-racist protesters have been complaining for a good while that this is a reference to slavery. And it has to be said that in photos they do have a look of the Black and White Minstrels. See the picture in this link. Some of the protests have been violent.
Defenders of the Swarte Piets say that this is not a case of racism but that the Piets have sooty faces because they accompany Sinterclaas down the chimneys to help deliver gifts to all and sundry. So anyway this year a decision has been taken and the Swarte Piets will not have blackface make-up but sooty faces.
“Today is a beautiful, historic day,” said Jerry Afriyie of Kick Out Zwarte Piet, who has been campaigning against Zwarte Piet since 2008. “This is a victory for everyone who strives for an inclusive parade that will delight all children. We want the tradition to continue for thousands of years – but adapted to the times.”
A happy ending of sorts.