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Demonstrators protest as Dutch St. Nicholas arrives, due to assistants in blackface

  • Children, some with faces painted black, wait  for "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete", right, to hand them candy after they arrived with Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, in Hoorn, north-western Netherlands, Saturday Nov. 16, 2013. The tradition of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is the subject of debate, where opponents say Black Petes are an offensive caricature of black people while supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless, his face soot-stained from going down chimneys to deliver present for the children. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Children, some with faces painted black, wait for "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete", right, to hand them candy after they arrived with Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, in Hoorn, north-western Netherlands, Saturday Nov. 16, 2013. The tradition of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is the subject of debate, where opponents say Black Petes are an offensive caricature of black people while supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless, his face soot-stained from going down chimneys to deliver present for the children. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Children scream as they interact with  "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete", left, and Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, after they arrived by steamboat in Hoorn, north-western Netherlands, Saturday Nov. 16, 2013. The tradition of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is the subject of debate, where opponents say Black Petes are an offensive caricature of black people while supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless, his face soot-stained from going down chimneys to deliver present for the children. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Children scream as they interact with "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete", left, and Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, after they arrived by steamboat in Hoorn, north-western Netherlands, Saturday Nov. 16, 2013. The tradition of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is the subject of debate, where opponents say Black Petes are an offensive caricature of black people while supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless, his face soot-stained from going down chimneys to deliver present for the children. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • A child dressed as Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, waits for "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete", rear, to hand him candy in Hoorn, north-western Netherlands, Saturday Nov. 16, 2013. The tradition of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is the subject of debate, where opponents say Black Petes are an offensive caricature of black people while supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless, his face soot-stained from going down chimneys to deliver present for the children. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    A child dressed as Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, waits for "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete", rear, to hand him candy in Hoorn, north-western Netherlands, Saturday Nov. 16, 2013. The tradition of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is the subject of debate, where opponents say Black Petes are an offensive caricature of black people while supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless, his face soot-stained from going down chimneys to deliver present for the children. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

Demonstrators are gathering in Amsterdam to protest the arrival of the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, not because of any dislike of the children's festival but because of his clownish servant "Black Pete."

Opponents say the figure, who wears blackface makeup, red lipstick and a frizzy "Afro" wig, is a racist caricature and either he should be abolished or altered. But the large majority of Dutch people feel that there is no racial insult intended by Black Pete, and he is a positive figure of fun.

In the Dutch celebration, St. Nicholas lives in Spain, and arrives amid fanfare this weekend by steamboat, accompanied by hordes of "Petes" The festivities culminate in a night of gift-giving and poems on Dec. 5.