Sinterklaas show to feature only "Chimney Pieten" this year

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

The Sinterklaasjournaal will feature only "Chimney Pieten" with soot on their faces this year, broadcaster NTR said in a statement on its website. How black the Pieten's faces will be remains vague. The amount of soot on their faces depends on how often they've gone through the chimney, the broadcaster said.

In the statement NTR addressed a number of questions around Sinterklaas' national arrival in Zaanstad on November 17th, and his controversial helper Zwarte Piet. On the question how the Pieten will look in the popular kids' show, NTR said:

"The Pieten have soot on their faces because they go through the chimney. Depending on how often the Piet has gone through the chimney, he or she has more soot on the face. The gloves and tights of the Pieten are not black, but tailored to the color of the Pieten suite. The hairpiece is not uniform but diverse, it varies from long, curly, straight to short. The Pieten also do not wear gold earrings."

The Sinterklaasjournaal is considered a leading voice on how Sinterklaas' controversial helper will look during the celebrations. Many municipalities look to the show for guidance on how to handle Zwarte Piet. Over the past years there's been much debate in the Netherlands on whether or not to change Zwarte Piet. One side of the debate sees the blackface character as a racist stereotype and a symbol of slavery, the other side considers him an important Dutch tradition that needs to be protected. 

According to NTR, the Sinterklaasjournaal is made "with respect for tradition and with an eye for developments in society". Over the past years the show gradually changed the Pieten's appearance, discarding the traditional and stereotypical gold earrings and big red lips. The traditional blackface makeup is also being phased out, with the introduction of Chimney Piet. Last year Sinterklaas was accompanied by a "motley crew of helpers", including traditional blackface Zwarte Pietent as well as Chimney Pieten.

The NTR statement suggests that the national arrival of Sinterklaas in Zaanstad will also feature only Chimney Pieten. "There is a lot of consultation between the municipality and NTR about many things and thus also about the appearance of the Pieten. The intention of NTR is to include the organizing municipality as much as possible every year in the vision of NTR and our experiences are positive", the broadcaster said.