Ash to replace blackface Zwarte Piet at Sinterklaas arrival

Sooty Piet (Picture: Twitter/@Warda_E) chimney pietChimney Piet (Picture: Twitter/@Warda_E)

Sinterklaas will be accompanied by more so-called Chimney Pieten and fewer traditional Zwarte Pieten at his national arrival in Meppel this year. More of Sinterklaas' helpers will be marked with ash and soot marks on their faces, instead of the traditional black-face makeup. The cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Maastricht will be following the same trend in the coming years.

The Sinterklaas committees in these five cities reached this agreement after meeting with Consultative Caribbean Netherlands and action group Nederland Wordt Beter, NRC reports. The ultimate goal is to keep increasing the number of coal covered Chimney Pieten and decreasing the number of Zwarte Pieten. In doing so the organizers hope to make the Sinterklaas festival fun for every child and to bring an end to the uncertainty surrounding the appearance of Zwarte Piet.

"Over the years we've had many conversations with supporters and opponents of the current Zwarte Piet. The Sinterklaas festival is a festival for every child; we don't exclude anyone.", Luc Dietz, chairman of the Sinterklaas arrival in Utrecht, said to NRC. "That is why we are taking this step to make Piet acceptable for this time while preserving the tradition."

"We often hear that people are tired of the discussion. And we also want to listen to those sounds." said Peter Boelhouwer, chairman of The Hague arrival. "We hope that we are taking a big step with this minor adjustment to give the festival back to the children. Because doing that is up to all of us."

These Chimney Pieten were introduced on the Sinterklaasjournaal last year and also made an appearance during the arrival in Amsterdam. Then they made up a quarter of the total Pieten. This year that number will increase to more than half. Other cities came up with other solutions last year, such as Gouda, who had Stroopwafel- and Cheese Pieten accompanying Sinterklaas.