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World's Strangest Holiday Traditions

Zwarte Piet, Belgium, the Netherlands

In bygone days, Zwarte Piet—or “Black Pete”—was Santa’s black African or Moorish slave. In addition to helping St. Nick distribute gifts, Pete was given the dubious task of abducting naughty children and whisking them off to Spain, which the Dutch apparently thought was just as bad as hell. In recent times, the figure’s image/role has been watered down into something more politically correct, though not completely eliminated: the local who plays Black Pete appears in blackface.

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