Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Christmas in July: Going Dutch

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ok, sure, it's July, and the last thing on your mind is broadening your...uh...mind...with exposure to international holiday traditions - I get it. However, this particular post was deemed by the powers that be* too controversial to post back in December, so all my hard work and sparkling wit got shelved, its radiance cloaked all these long months.

So what changed?

Well, that's a long story. One involving too many mango mojitos, a Chuck marathon, and a malfunctioning alarm clock. (Ok, so maybe it's not that long of a story...)

But enough intro: you guys ready to have those minds broadened? I promise it will only sting a little.

*meaning me, John, and the cat



In the Netherlands Santa Claus (called Sinterklaas) doesn't have elves for sidekicks; he has Zwarte Piet (meaning "Black Pete"). Zwarte Piet is usually played by a white guy in blackface makeup, a curly black wig, and big gold hoop earrings. (I am SO not making this up.)

Here's a reference photo from Wikipedia:

"Get your hand off my robe; you'll make it dirty."

Zwarte shows up in cake form quite a lot, too, and in less than flattering ways:

However, if this seems a little insensitive to you, Wreckporter Kiki has a perfectly reasonable explanation:

"Dutch people claim Pete is black because of the soot in the chimneys he has to climb down to deliver the gifts."

OH, so it's soot! Ok, I get it. And you're right: this does look a lot like Bert the chimney sweep:


We all know how Bert liked his lipstick.

And dressing up like Aunt Jemima:


This one found by Wouter T. is probably the most wreckish; it looks like the remains of a melting muppet:


Ever heard the expression "in for a penny, in for a pound"? Well, since I'm already stirring up trouble here, I may as well share what Megan H. found at a bakery in Argentina:

They're little cakes called "Africancitos", or "little black men". With bows on their heads. I don't think they're a holiday treat, though, so you can enjoy your little-black-men cake heads any time of the year. "Great for parties!"

(Yes, I've officially crossed the line from horrified disbelief into horrified humor. It's more fun over here - won't you join me?)

To those of you offended by all this, you should know that Zwarte Piet was not intended to be offensive. (Argentina, you're on your own.) And to those of you who see nothing wrong with outdated and racially insensitive traditions, you should take a look at this poster:

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Taylor (My Older Brothers) said...

I love "the remains of a melting muppet" line. Hilarious! Jen delivers again.
And I can't believe they think it's okay to keep that tradition alive! Didn't Ted Danson get in trouble for this a few years back?



myolderbrothers.blogspot.com

john (the hubby of Jen) said...

Just so ya'll know,

Anne Marie and I are dreading doing comments today.

Please keep it clean and kind.

john

Etiquette Bitch said...

cw2 looks, to me, like Ernie climbed (sailed? fell?) down a chimney.

marybt said...

If I'm ot mistaken, Pete also kicks bad little boys and girls. I am so not making that up.

Dorci said...

Wow. Those first 2 look like Zwarte the clown. Other country's traditions are just...scary. Poor kids. Can you imagine the Zwarte the clown nightmares those kids have over there?

Christina said...

I'm an American living in Holland and I still can't get used to the sight of Zwarte Piet every year. I hate trying to explain him to my visiting friends and I hate trying to explain the American sensitivity to him to Dutch friends. I think the best approach is a light-hearted one, like in this post, respecting both the Dutch tradition of this weirdo and the US tradition of detesting blackface. Whatever you do, do not look up the name of chocolate covered marshmallows in Dutch.

Kristina said...

Wow, rarely am I left speechless, but I truly am at a loss for words with these wreckages....

weirdmom said...

David Sedaris wrote a hilarious essay talking more about this tradition. It's called Six to Eight Black Men.

carrera said...

Oof.. interesting cakes and hilarious commentary!

Good luck fielding the comments, guys!

Trevor said...

Thanks for this post today, Jen. I've been having a rough few days, and I thought "I'm going to go check out Cake Wrecks today. Hopefully there will be a good post today." You didn't disappoint. I agree in the horrified humor, mostly for the Argentina cakes. Did Eva have something to do with these? Nah, she was above that. Oooh! now I have Madonna in my head!

Belle Epoque said...

The expression on that "melting muppet" cake...it might as well be me today...

Bryna said...

I'd like to know, if it's soot that he has all over his face, how did his beard stay so snowy white in the first cake?

eaner729 said...

OK, you know I love your site, but now, I'm going to be singing "Albi the Racist Dragon" ALL DAY! (Psst...I secretly I love you for it.)

Jeff said...

I'm far more appalled by Tuesday's poo cake bonanza.

Judy said...

The tradition poster really hit it on the head . I can't tell you the number of times I've heard "well we've always done it that way so it's not going to change". My answer has always been, "Just because you can convince a bunch of people to do something for an extended period of time doesn't make it right" Then, to punctuate my point I say "Look at slavery, or womens votes or Auschwitz or.....". That usually leaves them gob smacked and actually THINKING!
Hmmmmm, what do you know...sometimes changes actually means you have to say and/or do something rather than just hide behind the ole' "tolerence for everything anyone wants to do" nonsense!

Martin Luther King said: "In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"

Okay, climbing down off my soapbox and switching to decaf now...Mighty Good Morn to you all!

Cheers, John and Anne Marie! ;D

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I thought Zwarte Piet hit bad boys and girls with sticks and shoved them in his bag to take away. Nothing like a little scare tactic to make the kiddos behave at Christmas. Makes our whole "coal in the stocking" threat sound quaint!

But, I find it mildly disturbing that people turn him into a cake and eat him. Although, at this point, nothing should surprise me.

Cottagecheap said...

I am just floored. I am glad we have come far enough to be mortified.

Hollygoyle said...

Wow, Black Pete sounds like Krampus. Krampus the Christmas Demon smacks bad little children, too... with a broom yet.

And I am so not making that up either...

http://www.krampus.com/

Kristin said...

Horrified humor is definitely more fun!

jedijson said...

OK... So... If he's black because of the soot in the chimneys he slides down, what's with the white beard? In that picture with the cakes of his head, he has a white beard/goatee looking thing on his chin. Wouldn't that turn black, too? How's he keep it so nice and sparkling clean?

Just curious.



fosterdad101.blogspot.com

Marieke said...

Ah, memories of my childhood. They tried to have a PC makeover of Pete in the Netherlands, but in a crazy way -- they had all different colors of Petes, like pink, purple, green. But that didn't stick, I don't believe (I don't live there, just have Dutch parents who did the Sinterklaas tradition here in the US with us). Not to mention that until recently, these awesome chocolate covered marshmallow cookie treats you could get in Holland were called Negro Kisses (!!!). THAT at least has been changed, now they are called Angel Kisses I think.

meredith said...

I like the kicking kids part.

If they're going for a "soot covered man" there are far less offensive ways they could do it. And why is he wearing earrings to climb down the chimney? Is that the latest in Chimney Sweep fashion (didn't see it on Dick Van Dyke)

I could care less if they make little cookies with black mens faces, since there are "white" face cookies. But the whole "black people have GIANT pink lips" thing has GOT to go!

rose said...

I like the man dressed in red and white, the with a big belly better! But their "santa" is WAY more creative!

Areia said...

Actually, Zwarte Piet typically canes children who haven't been good, as well as leaving a piece of coal in their shoes rather than the present they were hoping for. Nothing like adding some BDSM to an already strange tradition.

I have to saw though, I grew up with this tradition in Belgium, and it genuinely never occurred to me that this very cartoonish representation of a black person had any relation to my black friends. I know that seems hard to believe for most Americans but it was true for me.

I've lived in the US for long enough now that I understand why this would not be at all acceptable here. The imagery is slowly becoming less acceptable in Europe as society becomes more multi-cultural, but try to remember when looking at these not to judge them solely based on American race relations history.

Hilary said...

The muppet one makes me think the cake 'decorator' was confused about whether they were doing a Pete cake or a Cheshire Cat cake!

adrienne said...

My husband spent some of his formative years in Germany where they also have Black Pete.

In his recollection, Pete is a gypsy type Santa sidekick who takes bad children. Black Pete leaves a warning (coal, maybe?) to all the good kids among the presents Santa has delivered.

Jim remembers Black Pete as always wearing a turban.

Erica said...

Okay, this part from Wikipedia had me giggling until I almost peed.

"if they have been bad, Piet will scoop them up, stuff them in his huge dufflebag and spirit them away to Spain as punishment."

Is Spain such a horrible place that it is now used as punishment? Is it like Pleasure Island in Pinocchio? Bad boys go there, then they are turned into donkeys?

Leah said...

Ah mango mojitos. You seem to work so much better off of them than I do.

You're awesome; these are funny, and I'm proud of you for posting such awful cakes!

Beth said...

I'm amazed they had Zwarte Piet in cake form! They don't really do cake here that much! Oh, and the melty cake is a grocery store cake (of course) from Albert Heijn.

I believe Piet is supposed to be Turkish, for what it's worth. I'm an American in the Netherlands and last Christmas was my first one here. It's a strange one, to say the least, but it's Piet that all the little kids like to dress up as, more than Sinterklaas.

naechstehaltestelle said...

I've spent the last three Dec. 5ths in the Netherlands and I HATE Zwarte Piet. I don't say anything to the Dutch people because I know I'll never be able to make them think it is offensive. But I hate it and I will always think it's an awful tradition, no matter what.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a Dutch Canadian family, and yes, I visited Black Peter at Christmas instead of Santa Claus. I was told that Black Peter represented several moorish children that St Nicolas saved from starvation (St Nicolas is Turkish, BTW), and so they help him distribute gifts to all good kids in thanks. Black Peter's role is to determine which kids have been good and earned a visit from Sinterklaus, and then bring him to their houses on his horse. Remember, St Nicolas is very old, and needs help getting around. If Black Peter doesn't deem a receipient worthy, he leaves coal in their shoes instead (I've never heard of kicking). I am a little ambivalent about the story today - it may not be culturally sensitive now, but I don't really believe it was intentionally derogatory. Many celebrations today omit Black Peter, which may be for the best.

Anonymous said...

If you think that's funny, check out David Sedaris' narrated "Six to Eight Black Men" on YouTube (in 3 parts).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbJpRLhaSqs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU1D1HKTDCY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g17Pl7MFMco

My choir director is Dutch, but I haven't had a chance to ask her about their, um, traditions yet. :)

Anonymous said...

According to David Sedaris, they're not covered in soot, they used to be slaves and now they're just 'helpers'.

YouTube's got the Six to Eight Black Men bit:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbJpRLhaSqs
Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU1D1HKTDCY
Part 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g17Pl7MFMco

I did a study abroad in Ecuador and these images are all over there too- there's even an ice cream treat on a stick.

In Brazil, music stores have a section for "Black Music" that runs the gamut from 50s R&B to modern hip hop. Basically, if you recorded something of any genre, and you're black, you go in the Black Music bin.

Anonymous said...

I think you meant Ernie instead of Bert. Bert has a tall skinny face. Those look like a bunch of black Ernies.

Será said...

I agree with the poster of the encierro of the Sanfermines festival (that's the running of the bulls). My Spanish husband even thinks they're crazy. Every year someone either gets severely injured or killed. Did you know that they all run into a bullring and close the doors? So, many of the runners are trapped in the bullring with the bulls! That's what they do at the end! Also, they do it once every day during the festival. And one more thing, it's going on RIGHT NOW, July 7th-14th!

SeaShore said...

I'm guessing the white "bows" are intended to be bones.

Racism in sugar. I'm stunned.

Judy said...

@Rose: St Nicholas and Sinterklaus were representative of Sainthood and piety, hence the slim build. The fat Jolly Santa is a creation of the Coca Cola industry and represents abundance and gluttony. Appropriate no?

Sheila M. said...

At first I thought the idea of this Piet guy was horrid ... but then I read that he hits kids that are bad and punishes them for their wrong doing. Now, I strangely feel connected to him and think we need more Piet in all of us for hope in future generations. EAT PIET! :)

Mari said...

"Bert the chimney sweep" Ah ha ha ha!

Anonymous said...

This isn't strictly a non-American phenomenon. doesn't anybody remember that super awkward weirdness that happened in the Village not too long ago? the baker's pathetic bs-ing is what made the news spot.
http://gawker.com/5137787/bakery-celebrates-obama-with-drunken-negro-head-cookies

Viewtiful_Justin said...

These are hilarious! Traditions are, more often than not, ridiculous.

I LOVE the de-motivational poster! So very, very true.

JenDiggity said...

The Muppet one looks like a Jay Jay Walker cake.

drrum said...

Gee. And I thought I was cringing when I saw the poo icing cakes.

Reminds me of a story. Back in the 60s, Sears and Roebuck used to have a candy department. If mom took us kids shopping, and if we behaved, we'd be treated to our choice of a small sack of candy.

One day while I chose my candy, my mother noticed a favorite candy from her own childhood in the 40s - chewy chocolate babies. She was so delighted that she exclaimed loudly "Oh look! Chocolate Babies!". Only she didn't say chocolate, because that's not what they were called when she was a child. Half the store turned wide eyes upon us. Mother and I were both horrified and ashamed.

Keep in mind, Mom is the furthest thing from a racist, and was far more progressive in the 60s than other parents I knew. Sure, we laugh uncomfortably about it now because it was a long time ago. But it really was not that long ago in history that this sort of thing was acceptable.

Lynn said...

Bows on the Africancitos? Naahhh...those are BONES, m'dear. Does no one else own up to remembering when native Africans were portrayed in cartoons as big-lipped black men with a bone on top of their heads? I hadn't thought about that for YEARS, but I bet a dollar to a donut (or cupcake) that those are bones, not bows.

RAM said...

This reminds me of a story my grandmother from Germany would always tell us about her younger brother.
When she lived in Germany as a child, Black Peter and Santa would come to their house every year. However, her younger brother was a terribly misbehaved child. Since Black Peter and Santa were just some of the neighbors dressing up, her parents gave them permission to have a little fun. So, Black Peter asked if my grandma's brother had a been a good boy,to which he plainly lied. Black Peter called him on it, threw him in his sack and walked out the door telling the kid the whole way that he's dragging him to hell.
About a block down the road, after much crying and pleading, her brother promised to be good for the rest of his life and ran back home once released. Apparently that behavior only lasted a couple weeks, but it makes for a good story anyway.
And thus, scare tactics are beautiful thing. ^_^

Anonymous said...

Wonder if SC Governor Sandford enjoyed any of these treats with his Argentina lover? hehe. (Sorry, I'm from SC...have to poke fun!)

Anonymous said...

This post has left me speechless.

Amy said...

You made me laugh so much with this post! seriously that's a feat today!
it's educational though - I never knew about that!
thank you!

lawgirl said...

I am Dutch and I was always taught that Zwarte Piet is to reward good children but also to take away the naughty children in his sack. ;)

Erica said...

My grandparents are Dutch, so I already know about black peter. Sometimes he's represented as a black cat. As I remember it, he punished children who are bad by giving them coal (or stuffing them in his sack, depending who you talk to).

Anyway, funny post, thanks for sharing!

Sarah said...

I was playing Trivial Pursuit on the XBox last night (I know, I know), and there was a question that said something along the lines of, "Which of these blogs was turned into a best-selling nonfiction novel in 2005?" and one of the options was Cake Wrecks!! You've made Trivial Pursuit!

joyce said...

I love the despair.com posters. We even have a couple of the tee-shirts. My favorite is of a shipwreck, and how I am here as an example to others. The despair posters and slogans would make great cake wrecks, eh?

Sara said...

To the people who were wondering about the first cake having a white beard: It's not a beard, it's a ruff, traditionally part of Zwarte Piet's uniform. Of course it should be just as black as his face if we stick to the soot story, but it wouldn't be the first kid's tradition that doesn't make sense (like for instance the whole idea of full grown men climbing up and down chimneys.)

Naughty kids would be taken to Spain simply because that's where Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet come from, at least in the version told to children.

I doubt many kids ponder the racism behind a black person doing all the dirty work, I know the thought never crossed my mind when I unpacked my gifts on the 6th of December, but it is true that adults should try and make a few changes in that respect.

It's a pity the Dutch multi-coloured Zwarte Pieten action mentioned by Marieke didn't know any real success.

Capability Bowes said...

*sigh* Trust the bleeding-hearts to be offended on behalf of everyone else. Have you tried asking black people whether they are offended? No, thought not. Its usually the white, middle class do-gooders who take it on themselves to be offended on their behalf.

"Other country's traditions are just...scary" - a comment which shows the USA's complete and utter insularity better than I could ever put it into words.

Indicative of this is your "Happy Holidays" when it's really "Happy Christmas". Heaven forfend that any non-Christians think that its some kind of religious slur.

Ye gods.

I've got a bet riding on whether this comment will get posted. 15 to 1 says CakeWrecks chicken out.

Kathleen said...

Oh god, thanks a LOT. My husband is Dutch and he TORTURES me with these types of images. You ever seen one of these black peters in person?

I've been lucky enough to visit the Netherlands twice so far and unlucky enough to visit during the holidays both times. So I've been subjected to these nightmares BOTH TIMES.

I won't even get into the time my husband bought a Black Peter action figure while we were over there and BROUGHT IT BACK WITH HIM.

I'll be over here on the floor in the fetal position until further notice. Thanks a lot, Jen and John. Thanks a-friggin'-lot.

Anonymous said...

My sister lived in the NL and if I'm not mistaken, instead of coal in the stocking, the bad children are carted off to Spain to be sold into slavery. OUCH!

Amy said...

This is by far the best CW post I've ever seen.

I'm just guessing those Piet cakes are white with chocolate icing? :)

HorribleLicensePlates said...

Merry Christmas.

Caroline said...

Wow.

If you're in the mood for more disturbing european Christmas traditions, look up Caga Tio (pooping log). It's a Catalan Spanish tradition involving feeding treats to a wooden log and then beating it with a stick. There has to be a Caga Tio cake out there.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend, while riding a bus years ago, overheard a mother tell her child that if he didn't stop what he was doing, Santa would come kick him in the face with his big black boot.

This was in America.

You gotta love those touching Christmas traditions throughout the world.

MetalNoir said...

In my opinion, cake #2 more closely resembles ERNIE the chimney sweep.

I think the Aunt Jemima nini-cakes are actually kinda nifty!

A Paperback Writer said...

Actually, I thought they all kind of looked like muppets... And since they're less offensive that way (muppets come in all colors and they're all pretty silly looking), I think I'll stick with the muppet version.

loved the "tradition" poster...

Morgi said...

Ooh! Ooh! Here's a link (http://www.npr.org/programs/waitwait/archrndwn/2002/dec/021214.waitwait.html) to the "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" episode with Harold Ramis as the Not My Job guest--the quiz was about this whole tradition, and the facts were horrifyingly hilarious! (Also I have a huge crush on Harold, but we're not going to mention that... oh wait...)

Maartje said...

Well, as a certified Dutch person I guess I just don't have the American sensitivity to the tradition.

Yeah, the whole 'paint a white guy black and give him red lips and curly hair' is pretty iffy, but (one version of) the legend goes that Sinterklaas rescued some black children/slaves and they became his helpers in bringing gifts to poor children. Of course, the legend is founded in slavery (what else would the black kids need rescue for), but that is simply a terrible page in history that's better left public than buried, if you ask me. Would be better to have actual black people play the Pieten, so as to get rid of the awful fake 'black', or maybe get some multicultural Pieten. Or go back to one of the earlier stories of Sinterklaas, in which he had a white helper.

The character of Zwarte Piet got much less racially insensitive over the years, though. Originally, he was indeed used as a 'bad guy' to accompany Sinterklaas's 'good guy' and to threaten kids with. The last century or so, though, as people really got to know black people personally rather than simply as enemies or subjugated colonies, they've become the 'competent project team' to Sinterklaas's 'confused scientist,' they NEVER hit kids or kick them, and yes, the threat of taking kids to Spain has been widely ridiculed as ineffective. (We even learned a song in school that went something like "If the Sint takes you to Spain with him, what joy, what joy! Cake and traditional Sinterklaas candy at tea time every day, and gifts and happiness all around!")

Of course, the general idea of 'rich white guy with people of a minority race as helpers' is uncomfortable, but the same could be said for Santa and his elves.

That said, the cakes are awful and I never really understood the idea of eating traditional figures!

P.S. 'Zwarte Piet' means 'Black Peter' which means the grammatically correct name is 'Piet' if you don't want to use both words, not 'Zwarte.' In Dutch, calling a black person 'Zwarte' IS actually offensive. :)

P.P.S. The white 'goatee/beard' is actually a collar like the ones in fashion in 17th century Holland. (http://www.kunstbus.nl/mode/molensteenkraag.html) Same for the floppy hat and the rest of the costume.

Nikki said...

I feel like I should be offended, esp. being african-american, but I'm laughing too hard!!!

I wonder how quickly racism and prejudice would end if people would laugh at it like it's the silliest thing in the world (which it is), then go on and do what's right?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that the story of Zwarte Piet varies a little from family to family (or province to province), but when I was growing up, I understood that Zwarte Piet was a Moor from Spain (that's where Sinterklaas comes from each year...on his steamboat). I remember one year (about 30 years ago) that my cousin dressed up as Zwarte Piet (complete with blackface) and it scared the crap outta me. Like others have mentioned, Zwarte Piet helps detemine who was bad and who was good...at our house, he always left a switch in the corner to remind us to be good. I never heard of him hitting or kicking kids, or taking them away in his burlap bag! (Like I said, I'm sure it varies from family to family.)

Folks dressing up in blackface and wearing minstrel costumes is weird, and seeing it makes me feel oogie. However, as someone mentioned, I always kind of thought of Zwarte Piet (and the little figurines) as being on par with Santa's Elves.

Mijn twee centen...

Pat said...

OK - I'm feeling morally reprehensible because I'm not offended! Why? The fact that the characters are from tradition and folklore makes all the difference. Hey, we're talking hundreds of years ago in western European areas, not the U.S. South of the last few hundred years. Should we eliminate characters like Uncle Remus too? Yes, sensitivity and equality are, of course, important. Isn't that why we should still let kids (and adults) read Huckleberry Finn without censorship because of some of the language? It's our job to explain how things were and are in other places and times while not condoning evil ideas such as racism and other mindless prejudices. Thanks for having the courage to publish these things - it should open discussion, not cause flames toward you. All right - I'll leave the pulpit! The droopy Muppet is a hoot!

mochaxlight said...

YES! I first heard about this guy from a David Sedaris short entitled (at least, I think that was the title Five to Six Black Men. But why, oh God, why, do we need to immortalize him in cake form? *shakes head*

mochaxlight said...

Maybe it was six to eight...either way, Santa Claus had a motley crew of black men to do his dirty work.

Anonymous said...

I can hardly wait until they open up Walmarts in the Netherlands. Brace yourself for yet another reason for wreckitude!!!

linzee said...

i took two years of german in high school and our teacher told us the german santa has "kneckt rupert" help him. i don't remember him being black, but our teacher may have left that out. kneckt rupert goes to the houses of the bad children and leaves whips and stones for the parents to beat their bad children with. nowadays they'll tie candy to the end of the toy whips, but it's still pretty terrifying.

Half Assed Kitchen said...

Yes, small, dark Elmos.

Angie (from over at www.HalfAssedKitchen.com)

Terri said...

Hilarious! I love despair.com, after Cakewrecks of course :-)

Nookleerman said...

I don't think you guys have anything to worry about as far as angry posters. As a society we are getting so tired over the rigtheous indignation thing, not because it's unnecessary, but because all those people listening are ones who feel the same way. It's the ones who aren't paying attention---you know what, I'll make my blog posts somewhere else. Funny cakes. Funny, funny cakes. Oh, that Hagar...

marybindc said...

I was in Amsterdam for the arrival of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet this past year. It's a huge deal with a parade. People are dressed like Black Pete and toss cookies to the kids. They rappelled off tall buildings and bounced around the walls (why, I don't know, but it made for great pictures). Kids also dressed up as Black Pete. I got an ornament with Sinterklaas and Black Pete just to show my friends back home. It didn't seem derogatory to me, just odd.

WV: huncyx: half a dozen women from Baltimore.

DangGina said...

rendered speechless...

Dawn Marie C said...

Besides the "Wow!" factor - now this is going thru my head...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEOAh9RDIfI

Weird Al and Cake Wrecks together at last!

"Its tradition that makes it ok!"

jenyphrc said...

Oh my goodness!! So much to say so much to say... the cakes are hilarious as usual, as is your commentary. I read some comments already and thanks to Christina, I had to go look up the Dutch for chocolate covered marshmallows :-0 And, lastly, I can't get over Zwarte Pete caning bad children.. it's disturbing and yet makes me giggle!

ThisIsWhyYourePhat said...

amazing! nothing on the drunken negro obama cookies, but amazing!

Meg Blocker said...

Have you read David Sedaris' essay about his discovery of this Dutch tradition? It is TO DIE FOR.

Here's an audio version of Sedaris reading it aloud:

http://odeo.com/episodes/4475683

Julie said...

Sorry, but I don't think this is any more offensive than Santa's elves, really. Obviously the blackface paint could go and the character be played by an actual black person, but other than that, I don't really see what the big deal is.

Michelle said...

Nice FOTC "Albi" reference!

Mel said...

Mojitos and a Chuck marathon... sounds like a perfect night to me!

Juliet said...

David Sedaris' "Six to Eight Black Men" is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. Please follow the links already posted and listen to it. You won't be sorry.

"Listen, you might want to get a few of your things together. The former bishop of Turkey will be coming tonight, along with six to eight black men. The might leave candy in your shoes, they might stuff you in a sack and take you to Spain, or they might just pretend to hit you. We don't know for sure."

Maaike said...

I happen to be Dutch, and I always thought 'Well, I'm glad we don't have those wrecky cakes around here. Bakers usually stick to round cakes / pies without attempts at decoration.' Boy, was I wrong.

As for the whole 'Black Pete is racist'-thing: I can see both sides of it. I've grown up with them so I'm used to it. Though I always thought them kind of scary. Hello-o make up people, people with black skin do not have bright red lips, at least not naturally. It looks really, really weird. I can understand that some people would be offended by this, though.

But these are not the parts of the tradition that disturb me most, actually.

Sinterklaas (=Santa Claus) comes to nearly every school to give some small presents to the children. He has this big book, which supposedly has the names of all children in it, and it also says if you've been bad and what presents you desire. You have to sit on his lap (!) while he makes some speech about you and then you can leave with your present. I always dreaded it. I don't like being that close to people I don't know, never did. Everyone could be under that fake beard. Plus the suit has usually been kept in some kind of storage for the entire year, so you can imagine what it smells like.

I also don't like the fact that some parents kind of stage an entire play to make their kids believe in Sinterklaas. Some don't want anyone to tell their kids he's just the neighbour or one of the teachers. Even if the kids are as old as 9 or 10. I mean, come on. My parents always let shine through that Sinterklaas received some help from parents here and there, because 'how can one man be everywhere at once?'. I don't like that cult of secrecy at all.

The fun part of the practice is when you get to buy presents for your family members. You're supposed to write a poem with it, and tradition says that it can be quite teasing or stingy. A good way to give your opinion about certain things without causing offence :)

jenisnape said...

Haha! I just moved the the Netherlands last Nvember, so this Chirstmas was my first 'Sinterklaas' Celebration.
You have no idea how much I had to contain myself for laughing! LOL

And HAHAHA of course it's Albert Hein that makes the melting-ish cake!

I also saw melting-ish cakes from AH for 'Queens Day'.

I'll have to remember to take pics next time ;)

jackie31337 said...

Christina said Whatever you do, do not look up the name of chocolate covered marshmallows in Dutch.

We have those in Finland, too. Officially, they're now sold just as "kisses". Older people still call them by their original name, which included a racial epithet. The art on the box is still far from politically correct.

Meg said...

That first one looks like Black Elmo - Elmo's evil twin. (Remeber on I Dream of Jeannie? Jeanie's Black-haired "cousin")

Yankee1969 said...

I saw a bunch of other comments pointing this out, but I have to agree that you need to listen to Dave Sedaris' "Six to Eight Black Men". My g/f played it in the car while we were driving and I nearly crashed I was laughing so hard.

amanda Dixon said...

Please go the "This American Life" archives and listen to "Others" and the story by David Sedaris. I think it may be December 2000. The same story is told in one of his books (I've forgotten which) but its another take on this Dutch version of Santa and its riotously funny.

Katie K said...

Love the Flight of the Conchords reference! *grumbled Katie K, quite racistly*

Anonymous said...

Oh, Holland.

I, too, very much appreciate the stealth Flight of the Conchords reference.

dani said...

I lived in The Netherlands and a friend of mine told me that Zwarte Piet started off as devils and over time became "Black Piets". Also, Sinterklaas lives in Spain and him and the Zwarte Piet put the bad girls and boys into burlap sacks and take them back to Spain as punishment. I never got used to seeing Zwarte Piets riding around on their bicycles with their sacks. Was quite a strange experience.

jackie31337 said...

Caroline said If you're in the mood for more disturbing european Christmas traditions, look up Caga Tio (pooping log). It's a Catalan Spanish tradition involving feeding treats to a wooden log and then beating it with a stick.

Holy crap (pun mostly unintended) that is the weirdest Christmas tradition I've heard of yet! Even weirder than Finland's "Christmas Goat" (Joulupukki, the Finnish equivalent of Santa Claus).

Lulu said...

LOVE IT ALL! If you can't laugh at stuff like that you're not fun enough to enjoy this blog...

Rose said...

Tradition continues to get blamed for all sorts of completely inane nonsense. And if you don't have tradition to back up your stupid rituals, what do you have then? *not common sense, obviously*

Love it!

Maria said...

I appreciate the work you do on this site. I come to cakewrecks because I want a light-hearted look at the dumb things decorators do, and it is always a good time. To me this is not funny; picture after picture of blackface is demoralizing and depressing, and puts an ache in my heart... There is simply no way to make such loaded images funny.

I don't want to sound mean, and I am sure there are going to be lots of "it's just a joke" or "they're making fun OF them," or "we're in a post-racial world, get over it" or "you have to understand cultural context" responses to my post, but honestly. This is in bad taste to say the least. I ask that you pull this post. You do not know who you hurt.

Or, to be light-hearted, my humor-boner has gone limp, so to speak.

john (the hubby of Jen) said...

Dear Capability Bowes,

It's actually "Merry Birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Day" but who's counting.

And you have to be WAY more offensive than that to get censored. Maybe swear a little next time.

john

Anonymous said...

I think that first one looks delicious. I'm for any tradition that includes the consumption of chocolate.

Hungarican Chick said...

I grew up in Belgium, and for me the 6th of December was St. Nicholas day, and that's when St. Nicholas and Zwarte Piet would come and bring tangerines and candy. If we left our shoes out at night, and we were good, they'd be filled with treats, but if we were bad, that damned Piet would leave coal. We got three holidays in that period... St. Nicholas day, Christmas and Three Kings Day (which for us was like Halloween because we'd dress up as three kings and go 'trick or treating' for coins). Belgian holidays rule... Even if they lean towards the politically incorrect.

Bridgette said...

Hey, thanks for not being scared to post something that's funny. You have my complete respect.

john (the hubby of Jen) said...

Maria,

We figured that this post would raise a few hackles. The thing is, this post was carefully written not to be offensive in and of itself but to show an odd tradition from another country. Who knows? Maybe the president of the Netherlands reads Cake Wrecks every day and will declare Zwarte Piet to be insensitive. Maybe the character will get banned. But to be sure, these are the some of the truest cakewrecks we've ever shown.

Tomorrow's post is more innocent.

john

spoofmaster said...

Okay, so I can see going two different ways on this, depending on how this character is actually represented--and I don't know how that really is most of the time, since this is the first time I've heard of him (I'll be very interested to read the wikipedia page and the essay someone linked to later, when I'm not in a rush to get out the door). When we're talking about Zwarte Piet as represented in these cakes...yeah, I think this is (more than) a bit questionable, particularly because of the bright red/pink, enormous lips (good grief, people, stop doing that). If we're talking Zwarte Piet as he appears to be represented in that photo of him with Sinterklaas, though...I'm not seeing such a huge problem (but again, keep in mind that I lack context, so I could be wrong). Yes, it's blackface, but at least in that photo, it's not the exaggerated, nasty blackface that we think of when we see that term. It's just someone in a costume, playing a holiday character who happens to have a different skin color than the person playing him.

Now, whether or not that's borne out by the traditional origins and behavior of Zwarte Piet is entirely debatable (he's sooty, or he's a black person who was saved by Sinterklaas, or he's a former slave--sounds like there are a few options, some less appealing to modern sensitivity than others)...but holiday characters can always be reinterpreted. Just look at the American version of Santa Claus. Maybe it would have been better if they'd managed to change it to a bunch of multicolored Petes, but I don't think that the existence of a black helper for Santa is in and of itself automatically offensive and condemnable.

Judy said...

YAY! John, THANK YOU!!!!

Slartibartfast said...

you are really going to have to come to my house for a FOTC viewing party when season 2 comes out on dvd (dubbed-video-dub) AUGUST 4TH!!!

Jessica said...

"I'm horribly offended" laughed Jessica.


I heart FotC too--Albi was terrific in concert :)

Heath said...

Wow. This is crazy!!! Thanks for posting this "Strange but True" custom. My jaw dropped about five times.

Tacky Weddings loves Cake Wrecks!!

Melissa (& Billy) said...

You know, the actual photo of Black Peter doesn't look so bad. I could get that. A little weird and wouldn't fly in America, but eh.

The cakes? Not so much. They all look like demented Muppets and they scare me.

As a child, I read a book about customs all over the world, and it said that Black Peter was a fierce looking man with a rough, blackened face who threatened naughty children. I never pictured him as a black man, though...

Re: Demotivator--LOL that's awesome. I just listened to a piece on NPR about the running of the bulls and I thought "And people do this on PURPOSE?"

Cindy said...

Love all of it, you make me laugh every day here at work! Keep it coming!

Girl With Curious Hair said...

I haven't had a chance to read all of the comments, but if you haven't read (or better yet, heard) David Sedaris' short story, "6-8 Black Men" PLEASE do so immediately. It is available on YouTube in three parts. Listening to it has become my Christmas tradition, during which I laugh so much I cry--every time I listen. It is about Santa Clause. It is brilliant, and is the perfect match for this post.

April Winchell said...

I've been to Amsterdam for Christmas twice. Piete is everywhere.

The really remarkable thing about it is that black actors often play the character in store displays and posters.

And even they play it in blackface.

Anonymous said...

I can tell how upset maria is, using the term "humor-boner." Shredded to ribbons, she must be.

Vanessa said...

I love this Black Pete/Krampus stuff. The twisted original version of fairy tales is always so much more interesting and serves its purpose to scare the boogers out of misbehaving kids.

I also loved that the Krampus made a guest appearance in the Venture Bros. Christmas Special http://www.venturebroswiki.com/vbwiki/Krampus

Amanda said...

Hmmm... I think that white beard is supposed to be a neck ruffle, like some of the other Zwarte Piets are wearing.

In short, I never cease to be astounded by cultural traditions.

Anonymous said...

Jen,I loved reading about the traditions and your brilliant commentary kept this potentially offensive subject in check. Thank you so much! Thanks also to the people who shared their memories about their traditions. I so enjoy learning about celebrations and traditions in other countries. And I so adore those little Aunt Jemima cakes. They took me down memory lane to a time when I once knew a kind hearted woman who dressed that way.

Coming to Cake Wrecks every day is like opening a box of Cracker Jacks.. You never know what kind of surprise you're going to get!!!

Cheers to all for a job well done!

Cara

lifeshighway said...

personally, I love a little horrified humor once in a while. I was secretly amused and publicly horrified... good job!

Erica said...

why are so many posters saying "funny post" and "oh wow i laughed so hard?" this just made me sad. shaking my head...

iris said...

aunt jemima meets william shakespeare. ohhhhhhh too funny! i feel like that muppet right now. shumbuddy turn on the A/C!

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a helper called Krampus with horns & he pulls little kids down to hell or beats them with a stick or something?

Kate said...

This is freaking HYSTERICAL!!!

Lisa said...

Fabulous job on balancing this post.... And I have "Tradition" from despair dot com as a skin on my laptop..... Great close to the blog. Although, I must agree with several of the previous comments, that looks more like Ernie than Bert and he looks chocolate dipped and somewhat melted. Guaranteed childhood nighmare material, right there!

Anonymous said...

i can't believe only one other person mentioned this: a Chuck marathon!?!? total awesomeness!

fun post btw. not offensive at all.

wv: armens: what pirates say at the end of their prayers.

Anonymous said...

The cakes are awful, but I don't think the tradition is necessarily. Like someone else said, it depends on the context Piet is presented in (if he's an actual black guy, then the blackface is stupid, but if it's a white person with soot on his face, then it's fine), but Sinterklaas having a black helper isn't automatically bad. It doesn't seem like many Dutch people find it derogatory, including black people who live there (at least in my limited experience with the Netherlands).

We're past the point where every black person is presented as a servant, and I think we're getting to this point where black people can't be presented as servants at all. Otherwise someone will get offended and, like someone else said, that someone usually seems to be a white person, which I almost think is more racist than the actual portrayal. Does the statement "Santa can't have a black helper unless because it's racist" strike anyone else as ironic? Even if you say there should be ethnic diversity, it still feels a little off to me. People don't make that much of a stink about Santa having all white midget helpers.

Amy said...

Oh, my word! Those look nothing like the guy in the photo.

In this heat, everything, including muppets, melt!
~Amy B.

wv: playisms (I'm not making it up! LOL)

Charlene said...

I suppose that's the problem: Americans go absolutely insane if anyone produces anything that could vaguely be considered racist *in the United States*, but at the same time they're immensely hostile if the opposite occurs.

So we have to be incredibly, incredibly sensitive toward American sensibilities but Americans don't even have to acknowledge that ours exist, or if they do they have the full right to mock and belittle them.

Blackwood said...

Damn it!
Well, as an Argentinian, I never saw or heard about any "Africanitos".
Too bad.
Although on the other hand, maybe it's better that I never got used to eating black people's faces... I couldn't get over the feeling of being a cannibal, and a racist one at that.

Scott said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate-coated_marshmallow_treats#Negerzoenen

HomoDM said...

Wow. Is anyone else reminded of those awful "Drunken Negro Face" cookies?

Story here:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/01/23/2009-01-23_greenwich_village_bakery_owner_causes_up.html

Picture here:

http://55secretstreet.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834525f2869e2010536eb0864970b-500wi

MB said...

I'm sure someone else has told you about this. But, you MUST look up David Sedaris' writings about 8 and 1/2 black men. His interpretation of the Dutch Christmas celebration. I was laughing so hard I was crying!!!!!

Anonymous said...

A new friend of mine is half Dutch and half African so I mentioned to him that I learned about Black Peter today curious about his view on it since he grew up in the Netherlands and he seemed perfectly fine with it.

MB said...

Ok, so, now I see that EVERYONE has commented the same thing about David Sedaris. I'm so glad I'm not alone in knowing what a humorous man he is! :)

Margaret said...

mercy, I can't imagine any of those in North Georgia.

mzmclean said...

i have the urge to buy about 12 of the commentors a deluxe dvd copy of MARY POPPINS!!

Just because you reference ONE Muppet, doesn't mean ALL refs are Muppetlicious! lol

BERT was the CHIMNEY SWEET in Mary Poppins.... Chim Chim Chereee!!



Oh my muppet/dis nerdness.. i can't help it haha

a l'ouest said...

I'm French, and for what it's worth, in any good pastry shop in France you should be able to find little cakes dipped in chocolate with meringue inside, and these are called "tête de nègre" which means, you guessed it, Nigger's Head.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who sees a direct resemblamce between the way that "zwarte piet's" cartoonish appearance may make fun of black people the same way that santa's elves' squeeky voices and cartoonish clothes may belittle little people?

great site tho! :)

Z's Wife said...

I think it's funny that you have to over-exaggerate how you're not trying to be offensive... whatever.

Regardless, I think these are hilarious! Soot or not, how do you make that color icing?!?!

Anonymous said...

Nikki at 10:40, I totally agree with you! Fight the big problems, like actual discrimination, but just let the silly little things like these caricatures go and have a good laugh at them instead. This kind of thing isn't worth the energy of getting angry or offended over it.

Hysterical post, as always!

Susan

Ava said...

I am german and we have, as another poster pointed out, "Knecht Ruprecht". He is also a Santa Claus sidekick meant to punish the bad children while Santa (aka "der Weihnachtsman" = the Christmas-man)gives gifts and sweets.

Knecht Ruprecht probably evolved from the very old belief that the devil travels with St. Nikolaus thus presenting the duality of good and evil.
And he is mostly thougt to be a dark figure, not african american, but a dark and sinster man, perhaps even echoing pagen traditions.
These storys can be traced back to 1300 - 1400 and are far older than anything concerning slavery.

Sorry about my bad english, there a lot of cultural references tieing spain with the netherlands (same ruling kings for quite a while), long conflicts with the Moors in spain, the perception of people with dark skin being an actual threat to europeans etc.
Its rather interesting.

Capability Bowes said...

Salutes to Nikki, the only person on this thread who is worth a candle. Nikki, you're a star.

For those of you who are busy being offended on others' behalf, lets just remind ourselves of what Nikki said, shall we?

"I wonder how quickly racism and prejudice would end if people would laugh at it like it's the silliest thing in the world (which it is)".

If someone of a particular race, sexuality, religion or culture is offended, then it is up to THEM to say so, not for others to sneak around worriting that to say something, do something or post a picture of a cake portraying of a traditional figure may "cause offence". To those who are offended - get over it. You're an adult. Deal with it.

And for all those outraged Yanks - if it aint your culture, don't think you have any right to knock it. Without European traditions, you'd all still be living in swamps eating racoons. But, as one fool has already said "Other country's traditions are scary". And that, my friends, is why there is so much hatred in the world.

Anonymous said...

Why does their santa look like the pope?

Hannah said...

Hooray for an Albi the Racist Dragon reference! Flight of the Conchords humor is always appreciated.
And these cakes are truly wrecks.

Anonymous said...

While we're at it, can someone from a UK-ish kind of place explain why gollywog dolls are NOT incredibly racist?

And then there's the gollywog cake wreck to consider....

http://www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com/coolest-golliwog-birthday-cake.html

Isn't that romantic? Yikes.

Kristen said...

I'm laughing over here. Not because of the cakes, but because I live in a highly Dutch-American (there's really no other way to describe it) city and worked at the public museum a couple of years back. (Note: I'm not Dutch. Much, anyway.) At Christmas, they had a display of mannequins dressed as Santa from other nations. And Black Pete was...Santa with a black beard. White dude, black beard. Still with the sacks and the beatings, but definitely and decidedly sanitized for our consumption. So, while I've heard of Black Piet...never heard of the racial aspect.

(So...umm...does that make for a different solution to the racial issue? Keep Zwarte Piet, just make him Santa with a box of Just For Men?)

Anonymous said...

Such a bad day at work but everyday I check your site and its days like these that make me smile... I love the FOTC reference... absolutly loved it.. I must go watch 'Albi' right now!

Bree said...

I'm biracial and the cakes really didn't offend me so much for what they represent as that most of them are just plain ugly. All that black icing = something not to pretty in the tidy bowl later.

However, everyone has the right to their opinion and Capability, perhaps you should step down from your sanctimonious high horse and think about why so many here are offended. You may not be offended, Nikki may not be offended, I may not be offended, but that doesn't mean we're the only right ones here.

Amina said...

I have lived in the Netherlands for about 30 years. The first year I saw Zwarte Piet dolls I couldn't believe my eyes. I have never got used to it and do my best to be out of the country when ZP and the Sint rutn up (which is in mid-November by the way and they hang around til 5 December). My one act of defiance was to print t-shirts in Dutch in the style we have done for political prisoners, simply saying "Free Zwarte Piet" - it does at least keep the dialogue alive.

Suzy said...

I just have to say, Jen, I'm lovin' the Flight of the Concords reference.

hazel61 said...

Capability Bowes - how dare you tell us to "get over it?" How dare you insinuate that anyone who is offended "isn't worth a candle?"

So it's not enough that we suffer enduring racism and hurtful stereotypes from every corner masquerading as "tradition;" we also have to listen to you tell us that we don't have a right to our feelings?

It's interesting how you seem to assume that almost everyone here is white, unless they identify themselves otherwise. And by "interesting" I mean something else.

To clarify: Am mildly offended Zwarte Piet, am not at all offended by the post mocking Zwarte Piet, am incensed by being literally told that I'm worthless.

Anonymous said...

This post made me incredibly, indescribably sad. I can't wait until I never have to see one of those images again. And since the entire rest of the world still thinks its ok that probably won't happen in my lifetime. :(

:::b r a n d i::: said...

LMBO! That's the most ridiculous tradition I've ever heard of. As if a flying man with reindeer wasn't dumb enough...

maria said...

I'm black and I think it's funny, and that was before I read the whole soot explanation. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. No one's being killed or slaughtered. Would this tradition fly in the U.S.? No, it would not. I think we all need to keep a certain lightness when it comes to racial humor. My friends talk all the time about the differences between our various cultures and racial backgrounds. We generally find we're more alike than we are different. So yeah, I think it's funny.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in the Netherlands 16 years ago, I was told that Zwarte Piet took the bad children to Spain as punishment because during the Counter Reformation, relationships between the Netherlands (Protestant) and Spain (Catholic) were not good. Remember the Spanish Inquisition? As others have stated, he was black because he is Moorish. My experience with the "live action" Zwarte Piets was that they were played by women dressing as men, since Zwarte Piet is small.

More disturbing to me than Zwarte Piet was the Dutch interest in gollywog/minstrel show style figurines. I know that the African-American students I was with there found that very awkward and uncomfortable. Zwarte Piet not so much, other than the scariness inherent in anyone dressed in blackface and a crazy outfit chasing you around in public.

Of course, my personal wish was for Zwarte Piet to take me to Spain. Jeez. From September to June, the Netherlands is dark and rainy.

Barb said...

Well, after seeing everything, I only have one thing to say that's worth typing.

John (the hubby of Jen) is my hero for the day, for multiple reasons.

*nods*

Vivian Guest said...

I just can't get past the idea of eating someone's face in cake form. I don't care if it's photo cake, a creepy tradition, or a super hero, it's a PERSON! Do we secretly want to be cannibals? Is that why they keep making cakes that smile back at us? WHY!? *culrs into a ball, sobbing.*

-Viv

Holly said...

Not that other countries' traditions aren't interesting and often better than the States', but give me fat, high-glucose-corn-syrup Santa and his squeaky, pointy-toed, jingle bell shoe elves any day over the slightly racist or savior Pope Santa with his wreckishly freaky Pete cakes! The horror of those lips! The horror!

Sara said...

You'd have a hard time trying to find a Dutch President, considering the country is a monarchy :p

Sinterklaas is dressed like the pope because he was historically a bishop in Myra (Turkey), which explains for the mitre, dress, cape and crosier.

Tasha said...

Melting muppet looks like a chocolaty Dr. Teeth! Where's the rest of the Electric Mayhem?

G.H. said...

Melting Muppet!! haha. I love it.
weird tradition.


http://confessions-of-a-waitress.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

I remember watching a Dutch film called 'Winkie's Horse' all about a chinese girl who moves to Holland and learns about the tradition of Sinterklas and Zwarte Piet. I realise that a film is in no way to be taken literally, but it seemed that no offense was meant or caused by the tradition of Zwarte Piet and that it is simply an entertaining tale for children at Christmas time. That's my two cents anyway...

But yeah, the cakes are frightening and decidedly wrecky.

Akimika said...

Crazy. The Bonmucho boss from Locoroco(PSP) looks very strikingly like the second-to-last cake.

Milo said...

As a Dutchman, I feel the need to add the following (although I'm positive hardly anyone will see it).

Since Zwarte Piet is just as real as Santa's Elves, the scariness associated with him completely depends on parenting. Yes, I've heard that if you weren't good, he would hit you with sticks and/or take you off to Spain, but that's just hearsay. In reality, any face-to-face contact with Zwarte Piet is nothing but joy. I'd even say that kids love "Piet" (and his candy and crazy antics) more than they love the old man (with his old ways and judgemental book).

Zwarte Piet is, in general, a character to be loved. Any quibbles over political correctness is just adults getting in the way of kids' fun.

Rosa said...

Jen, please continue to work in FOTC quotes and references as much as possible. Cake and Conchords make my life.

Beryllium said...

Bravo, Jen & John!

I think it's hilarious, and reminded me of David Sedaris' story "Six to Eight Black Men".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbJpRLhaSqs

TOO FUNNY!!!!

JonandRobyn said...

I'm speechless... Surely you mean Ernie, not Bert?!!

Cassandra said...

Jen scores with another FOTC reference!! Love it!!

Alana said...

Awkward subject handled very well today. I am an American in the UK and even here I'm shocked and surprised to see that they had minstrel shows on tv up until the late 70's, and only a few weeks ago I found horrifically offensive blackface figurines in a pound shop. And I have to keep reminding my British husband that when we're in America, he can't call anyone "coloured" unless he wants to lose a vital organ.

Ingeborg said...

I think what's important to remember here is that the US is in a very unique position when it comes to the history of race relations. So obviously, your frame of reference is different to that of Holland and most of Europe. I definitely see how this can be seen as offensive in America, but in the same way I have to say that I think many people in Europe wouldn't even think in that direction. Many would just see a guy who was sooty and not see it as a portrayal of anything racist. I think it's important to see traditions in the context of their own frame of reference.

Now, those cakes from Argentina is an entirely different story. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

JonandRobyn (and countless others I'm sure)
NO...she means Bert...from Mary Poppins. The chimney sweep. Surely you've seen Mary Poppins?

Devoted follower from Prague said...

I think it only takes a perspective. I am from Eastern Europe and December 6th (or rather eve of - not Christmas just like in Netherlands, we have baby Jesus bring Christmas presents) is celebrated by St. Nicolas walking around being accompanied by a devil and an angel. The devil is always a white guy/girl with black face.

I can pretty much guarantee nobody ever made any connection to black people, leave alone slavery. I know what I am talking about. My husband is American and, you guessed it...black.

Tessa said...

I just wanted to pipe in and say...I love your blog, and YEAH CHUCK MARATHON!!!

Tiffany Dyer said...

Wow. You have got to read David Sedaris' writing on this topic. You won't be able to stop laughing.

http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1202-DEC_SEDARIS

Miranda said...

So when are some black folks who've had enough of this foolishness going to make some hideous white-folks-head cakes and go YEAH, HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?

ComfyDenim said...

only in America would someone get offended at someone else's fairy tale. I thought about rolling my eyes -- but no one would see it.

I just have one question -- those AREN'T Aunt Jemima Cupcakes??! Those are GOOOD!!!

The rest of it all got a very amused chuckle out of me. You Rock, Jen, You rock much!!!

Emmie said...

"Get your hand off my robe; you'll make it dirty."

I had a sneaking suspicion, but after the random FotC reference I'm convinced...you're the coolest person on Earth.

alicia said...

hehe, we have friends from holland, they told us about sinterklaas and black piet. apparently another tradition was to tie a string around your big toe, and hang it out the window. in the morning, friends would come pull on the string to let you know to come ice skating with them!

while at their house, we also ate anise flavored cookies that were replicas of windmills and a statue of a man with a very large...uhm...well you know. it was a little uncomfortable watching their kids eat these cookies!

Amanda said...

"OMG, Surely you mean Ernie?!?!"

No, she means Bert the Chimney Sweep from Mary Poppins.

Jen- I never thought you would need to put in a hyperlink to explain to people that BERT THE CHIMNEY SWEEP is NOT a muppet.

Just in case: http://www.coveringthemouse.com/images/ccc02.jpg

http://www.broadwaycares.org/images/bears/BEARS-08-Mary-Poppins.jpg

Anonymous said...

Right on, hazel61!

There are some traditions that I don't respect, in my own country and others.

What I want to know is when did this idiotic notion of anything "traditional" being beyond reproach grab hold? Or the equally stupid idea that unlesss one is, say, gay, then homophobia should go by unchallenged?

Anonymous said...

Hey, have you heard of that funny David Sedaris thing that addresses this?

I just wanted to say that for the NINE BILLIONTH TIME here.

Hit control F, people. Type in "Sedaris." See if it's mentioned already. Or, read the comments. Because they are compelling.

Heathahhh said...

I love the Albi reference...

:)

Anonymous said...

As an African American, I think this is both funny and offensive at the same time. Mainly funny because it's so completely offensive.

Some of these comments are more offensive than your actual post, which I though was quite tactful.

And I don't think it is up to other people to say who can and cannot be offended by something. Even if it doesn't involve your ethnic group, you can still find it offensive.

Anonymous said...

Oh jeez. I am equal parts amused and horrified. I would never have imagined this kind of thing to be in cake form. But then I'm a sheltered Canadian. ;D
Well done, Cake Wrecks.

Ida said...

Why exactly is this so terribly offensive? Is it offensive that piet is turkish, gypsy or african? Why? Is it also offensive that santa is white? Is it offensive that Santa is so Old that he needs someone to climb up and down the chimny for him? How humiliating, maybe he's an equal oppertunity employer, maybe he was having a hard time because he only represented "the white man" and felt the need to have some one who happened to be blessed with more pigment deliver the presents for him while he stayed in the background and let his right hand man get the cookies and milk. If we are so worried about offending everyone then should santa not be replased with an Asian woman? After all women are ever so under representended in our holiday mythology and anyone other than an asian would be a minority and would therefore be offensive to the "mainstream"

Chill people, and just for a minute consider that there is a possibility that this is not based in anything particular racist. And try not to be so offendable.

Marieke said...

You'll forgive me if I repeat something already said, as I didn't read all 179 comments.

Black Pete, from the way I heard it, being Dutch and growing up as a kid in the Netherlands, is black because he's of Moorish descent. Which doesn't quite explain the soot-black black-face stuff though... but might explain a bit more the golden earrings, Aunt Jemima style.

Sinterklaas is a bishop who lives in Madrid. When kids send off their lists, much like writing Santa a letter at the North Pole, you'd address your mail to Sinterklaas to Madrid, Spain. Hence also why Spain is where you'd get spirited away to if you were naughty. And Black Pete is his helper.

Having lived overseas now for a decade, I've kind of missed the main PC battles that have raged over that, and a few other things.

Alix said...

Photo 5: Grover in a Rasta hat.

I didn't read all 179 comments, so forgiveness please if 129 of you already said that.

{I've been a follower for awhile... I know this is a tough audience}

Jennifer said...

Ok, I also thought you meant Bert from Sesame Street. He kind of almost looks like Bert from Sesame Street!

Natalie said...

*crickets*

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with a black person being in a tradition? I don't get it, it's not like they are saying he's a slave to Santa, it's stated he is a helper. But seriously what other holidays do you get to see a black person be involved in to this extent?
There's nothing wrong with Peit being a cake, Santa gets to be a cake.

A wreck is a wreck no matter the color, right?

And besides I don't see anyone picking up for the "slaved looking midgets" Santa has hired in Western Cultures traditions. Not to even mention the shows I've seen where there are a couple colored elves. .. what about those? What I'm getting to is we're looking too far into things.

jaco said...

www.despair.com is one of the most brilliant companies (yes a company) that I have studied in a long time. I was thrilled to see the most brilliant blogs use a poster from the most brilliant business. Is that like double cream ice cream? Excellent Jen!!

stuckonoahu said...

Thanks for making me laugh every single day.

Literary Beauty said...

As a black woman, I think maybe I should be offended...but it's too d@mn funny to be offensive!!

D'Ann, Chandler AZ

AE said...

I really don't get why anyone would be offended by this. It's a tradition. Want to talk weird traditions? How about a big bunny hiding your eggs. Oh clearly, that is racist against bunnies. America must be shunned. Come ON. It's just what they do. Racism in this age isn't as big an issue as it was. Let's look at the South Park episode here, where they debate whether or not to change the flag, remember that one? Nobody sees it as a black guy getting hanged by white guys, just some guy getting hanged by other guys. Sick humor FTW! :)

Anonymous said...

I actually do know about Zwarte Pete! I should have known there would be Pete wrecks in that corner of the world!

-Heather

Sharon said...

Do you think we should tell her about the caganer?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caganer

Maria said...

As a black Argentine (ahh, we are rare, but we exist!) I can honestly say that 1. I have never EVER seen anything like the "Africancitos" before, and 2. I don't really find them offensive. We just don't have such a strong history of racial tension, so our adherence to political correctness is pretty much nonexistent. It would worry me more if people around me started being more PC, because that would imply a distinct awareness of "you're black, we're white", and only then would I start feeling uncomfortable and not accepted. Believe it or not, it really is a cultural thing.

That apart, those things are still pretty wrecktastic :)

moochmom said...

It seems to me that the "Africancitos" cakes have an odd similarity to the Blue Blob Bob cakes? A slightly edgier, racially-charged version if you will...

moochmom

Anonymous said...

I didn't read all of the comments, so sorry if someone else has said this.

Why do we have to bring our overly repressive political correctness to other countries and their traditions? We are criticized over and over again for thinking everyone needs to think exactly as the US does. Can't we EVER let other cultures, other peoples, believe differently than us? When will we get over ourselves, for crying out loud?

These cakes are wrecks because they are just bad--NOT because they portray black people in a negative light. (And it WAS said that the black is from soot, NOT from skin color.) Good grief.

Jill Pole said...

[off topic ramble] ...Chuck marathon? This, and all your lovely SGA references...I want to watch tv with you![/ramble]

I completely agree with the poster at the end. I can't really understand why this is still going on. Though definitely in a more horrified-amused kind of way.

Julie H said...

Jon, your responses to the comments were perfect. You should be a diplomat. Well done, sir.

Liz said...

I'm sorry, but I have to go with Hazel here - anyone hear of institutionalized racism? I understand that this is more regarding public access but I think it still has some merit. Here is an interesting website which I think many of these "why is anyone offended?" posters need to read...

http://www.ferris.edu/JIMCROW/question/jan05/

particularly interesting part:

"By ascribing second-rate citizenship to the critics who aren’t considered “Dutch”, the authority of the speaker is undermined. On the other hand when it appears that the critic is white, he or she is often being marginalized as being “political correct”, which is used as a contemptuous term. The letters in the newspapers and on the internet were in general very emotional, reflecting a fear that ‘Dutch’ culture is being ‘threatened’ by ‘foreigners’ The main arguments were:

* The holiday is a celebration for children and children aren’t racist.
* It’s a matter of ‘tradition’ (that certainly can’t be changed by ‘Foreigners’).
* The critics are the ones who make it racist. "

Otherwise, I mainly find a majority of these comments offensive and disheartening. Thank you for posting this on your blog, it at least gets a dialogue going and hopefully brings a lightbulb moment for those in the dark.

Thanks,
liz

hello jessi! said...

I'm ALMOST more shocked by the number of people who don't understand that "Bert the Chimney Sweep" is NOT the same *person* as Bert of Bert and Ernie fame.......wow.

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