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Zwarte Piet (pronounced [zrt pit], Dutch for 'Black Pete', Luxembourgish: Schwaarze Piter, Indonesian: Pit Hitam, West Frisian: Swarte Pyt) is the companion of Saint Nicholas (Dutch: Sinterklaas, West Frisian: Sinteklaas, Luxembourgish: Kleeschen, Indonesian: Sinterklas) in the folklore of the Low Countries. The earliest known illustration of the character comes from an 1850 book by Amsterdam schoolteacher Jan Schenkman in which he was depicted as a black Moor from Spain. According to folklore, the skin of Zwarte Piet is colored by soot from going down chimneys to bringing presents into people's houses. Those portraying Zwarte Piet usually put on blackface and colourful Renaissance attire in addition to curly wigs and bright red lipstick. In recent years, the character has become the subject of controversy. Traditions The Zwarte Piet character is part of the annual Feast of St. Nicholas that is celebrated on the evening of 5 December (Sinterklaasavond, which is known as St. Nicholas' Eve in English) in the Netherlands and Aruba. This is when presents and sweets are traditionally distributed to children. The holiday is celebrated on 6 December in Belgium.
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