International Golliwog Collectors Club Newsletter - Issue No. 6

The Story of 'Zwartz Piet'

Zwarte Piet is a black character from Dutch Christmas folklore, where he is St. Nicholas's helper. In his doll form, he looks remarkably like our Golliwog.

In Holland Christmas has always traditionally been a very religious festival, without all the razzmatazz that is associated with it now. Children didn't get presents from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, as in Britain and America. Instead, the day they looked forward to (and still do) was December 5th, the eve before St. Nicholas Day.

It is said that on this day, St Nicholas sails to the city of Amsterdam in a boat from Spain, accompanied by his servant, Zwarte Piet. Church bells ring as they come ashore. Dutch children are told that Zwarte Piet keeps a record of what they do in a big book. Good children will be given presents, which Zwarte Piet brings down the chimney, getting very black in the process.

The Dutch name for St. Nicholas is Sinter Klaas,'and it is a well known fact that our 'Santa Claus' is an Americanization of the immigrants' 'Sinter Klaas'. Susan thinks that if the Dutch and Flemish immigrants brought 'Sinter Klass' to America, then it could be possible that they also brought 'Zwarte Piet', and that florence Upton's original doll, that she based her "Golliwogg" stories on, culd have been and original 'Zwarte Piet' doll.

Susan says that some of the oder Zwarte Piet dolls look similar to Golliwogs, both facially, and in the way they dressed, the only difference being that the Zwarte Piet dolls usually wear a hat, sometimes with a feather in it. Modern Zwarte Piet dolls wear bright colors, usually striped in two colors. They look like clothes worn by Spanish at the time of William of Orange. She says that the dolls in the shop windows now tend to look like Aladdin, as they all wear earrings and a puffy hat.

Ref. 'Merry Christmas: Children at Christmas around the World' by Satomi Ichikaea

'Even though he is Black as Soot!' The Many Faces of St. Nicholas and Peter' by Rahina Hassankanm

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