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Zwarte Piet (pronounced [ˈzʋɑrtə ˈpit]; English: Black Pete or Black Peter, Luxembourgish: Schwaarze Péiter, Indonesian: Pit Hitam) is the companion of Saint Nicholas (Dutch: Sinterklaas, Luxembourgish: Kleeschen, Indonesian: Sinterklas) in the folklore of the Low Countries. The character first appeared in an 1850 book by Amsterdam schoolteacher Jan Schenkman. Traditionally, Zwarte Piet is black because he is a Moor from Spain. Those portraying Zwarte Piet usually put on blackface make-up and colourful Renaissance attire, in addition to curly wigs and bright red lipstick. In recent years, the character has become the subject of controversy.
The Zwarte Piet character is part of the annual feast of St. Nicholas, celebrated on the evening of 5 December (Sinterklaasavond, that is, St. Nicholas’ Eve) in the Netherlands, Aruba, and Curaçao, and on 6 December in Belgium, when presents and accompanying sweets are distributed to children. The characters of Zwarte Pieten appear only in the weeks before Saint Nicholas’s feast, first when the saint is welcomed with a parade as he arrives in the country (generally by boat, having traveled from Madrid, Spain). The tasks of the Zwarte Pieten are mostly to amuse children, and to scatter kruidnoten, pepernoten, and Strooigoed (special Sinterklaas sweets) for those who come to meet the saint as he visits schools, stores, and other places.