The Intangible Heritage Netherlands Inventory contains intangible heritage of which the heritage community, group or individual has written a guarantee plan to give the heritage a future. That plan has been tested by an independent Review Committee. Heritage care is evaluated every two years.

Description

In Grou the traditional Dutch Saint Nicolas feast is not celebrated; in this village, people celebrate Sint Piter (Saint Peter) on February 21. For outsiders it looks like Saint Nicolas, but Sint Piter is not of the same origin. On the Saturday before February 21, Sint Piter arrives in Grou by boat. He wears a white cloak and rides a (black) Frisian horse. Sint Piter is received by the mayor and sung to. Subsequently Sint Piter passes through the village in a parade, with the mayor, representatives of committees and school children. Sint Piter visits schools in Grou, the nursery, the care centre, an welcome party for children, an informal reception for the residents of Grou and former inhabitants and sick children. As of 1951 a Sint Piter fairytale has been performed each year. The fairytale is one of the cornerstones of the current celebration and is done in Frisian. Sint Piter songs in the Frisian language are another element of the feast.

Several weeks before the arrival of Sint Piter the Sint Piterfrouljuskomitee  (Sint Piter women committee) organises a Sint Piter fair. This marks the beginning of the activities of the local entrepreneurs. The revenues, which are always considerable, are used for the performance of the fairytale, publishing books and for Sint Piter games for the children.

During the fair Swarte Pyt (Black Pete) is present to take in shoes and boots from small children. These shoes and boots, filled with a present, can be searched for later on in the window of one of the shops in Grou.

On February 21, by the end of the afternoon, Sint Piter and Swarte Pyt are said goodbye in the centre of the village. In 2016 there were demonstrations at the entry of Sint Piter, by the action group ‘Kick out Zwarte Piet’. The organising committee discussed this issue intensively afterwards, with the inhabitants of Grou as well as the municipality of Leeuwarden.

 The national dispute on Black Pete is certainly not ignored. In Grou the figure of Swarte Pyt is not experienced to be racist or problematic by the inhabitants. People are, however, aware of the fact that there are people with a different view. ‘The Sint Piterfeest has always been moving with the times over the past century; hence it is a dynamic tradition, with room for dialogue and possibly adaptation, if society requires it,’ is written in the heritage care plan.

Community

Several thousands of residents and former inhabitants of Grou are present at the entry of Sint Piter.

Some 350 former Grouers meet in a reunion-like atmosphere.

The Sint Piterkomitee Grou consults with the Breed Komitee (broad committee), in the presence of, among others, the schools, the preschool, various associations, the two leading actors and the horseman. Besides there is the Sint Piterfrouljuskomitee, solely consisting of women, and the business club Grou.

The Mearkeploech (fairytale team) is responsible for the fairytale. Each year between ten and twenty players take part and some 20 people are active behind the scenes: make-up artists, technicians, set builders, costume seamstresses etc.

History

The Sint Piter celebration is dedicated to Peter, one of the apostles. Eeltsje Halbertsma from Grou described it, in 1837: Youngsters of well-to-do citizens went from door to door with rattling chains, banging on the doors and scattering gingerbread cookies.

By the end of the nineteenth century an inhabitant of the village used to walk through the streets during Sint Piter as a sinister, almost frightening figure. Hidden under an old cloak, covered with sweets, he searched for well-behaved children. They were allowed to pick some sweets off the cloak; naughty children were addressed harshly.

In 1903 kindergarten teacher Riek Jansen introduced the feast at school and Sint Piter appeared in public as a white Saint Nicolas with a red miter and only one Swarte Pyt. After World War II the feast evolved further. The Sint Piterfrouljuskomitee was being established. It started to sell handicraft and presents at a fair, to cover the costs of the theatre play. After the teachers had performed a fairytale for their pupils for the first time in 1951, both initiatives were combined. During the seventies, the fair became an activity of all the women societies in Grou. As of 1970 Sint Piter is received on the Saturday before his name day (February 22, according to the Roman-Catholic  calendar). Since 1990 a Sint Piter welcome party for adults is held directly after the arrival.

Contact

Sint Piterfeest in Grou
Postbus
9001 AA Grou
Friesland
Netherlands
Website