According to folklore, the 'Black Peters,' (known to natives of the Netherlands as Zwarte Piet) are the dark figured companions of Saint Nicolas, a white-bearded, saint who resides in Spain and annually travels to Northern Europe on a steamship to hand out gifts.
The Black Peters are known for their tricks and jokes, their Moorish costumes and their 'blackface' with bright red lips and thick afro hair.
Although the Christmas tale is innocent enough, many believe that Black Peter too closely resembles all the negative representations of black people in the 20th century, and that he is in fact Saint Nicholas's servant.
Modern attempts to be politically correct claim that the naming of "black" in Peter's name is because of his occupation as a chimney sweep, even though his appearance gives great reason to suggest otherwise.
In recent years, the traditional Dutch holiday figure has provoked a heated debate in the Netherlands and Belgium with many wanting to keep their 'innocent' cultural tradition in place and others protesting that it is blatant racism and needs to be excluded from holiday celebrations.