Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is a fictional character from Dutch (and Flemish) Sinterklaas folklore. He is Sinterklaas' friend and helper, and in current Sinterklaas lore he's one of many, akin to Santa Claus' elves. He appeared on several winter holiday episodes of Sesamstraat, the Dutch co-production of Sesame Street, and on albums like Hoor Wie Klopt Daar Kinderen, in this instance voiced by Wim T. Schippers.
Sinterklaas' entry to the Netherlands has been organized since the 19th century, and the first televised entry took place in the 1950s. Except for the Hoofdpiet (Head Pete), Sinterklaas was being accompanied by a myriad of generic 'Pieten'. Things changed when Bram van der Vlugt, who played Sinterklaas for 25 years, took up his role in the 1980s. He started calling a Piet with a roadmap 'Wegwijspiet' (Directing Pete). This spawned many 'Pieten' with their own names and identities in the following years.
Some 'Zwarte Pieten' that have appeared on Sesamstraat
- Ballonnenpiet (Balloon Pete), played by Peter Lusse, owes his name to the fact that he wanted to give Sinterklaas a load of balloons for his birthday the first year he appeared on TV.
- Hoofdpiet (Head Pete), played by Frits Lambrechts, Erik de Vogel, and Erik van Muiswinkel in succession, is the leader of the group of 'Pieten'.
- Sorrypiet (Sorry Pete), played by Marc-Marie Huijbregts, is a Piet who keeps apologizing for the many mistakes he makes.
- Wegwijspiet (Directing Pete), played by Michiel Kerbosch, is the guy with the map. He tells Sinterklaas the way in the many towns he visits.
- Wellespiet (Did Too Pete), played by Dick van den Toorn, formed a duo with Nietespiet (Did Not Pete, played by Georgina Verbaan) the first year they appeared on TV. Nietespiet didn't return the following year, nor did she ever appear on Sesamstraat. Wellespiet, on the other hand, keeps playing an important role in the annual Sinterklaas stories.
- In recent years, Zwarte Piet has been the subject of controversy in the Netherlands, as the makeup reflects stereotypical blackface and the roles are played by white performers.
- Zwarte Piet is also the Dutch name for the card game Old Maid. The name Black Pete refers to one of the black jacks (spades or clovers) which functions as the one single card.
- In a 1987 Sesamstraat episode, Pino learned from Gerda that calling her and other black people "Zwarte Piet" is offensive.