One of my holiday memories from Belgium was when I took my boss, who was visiting from New York, out to dinner in a swank Brussels restaurant and a guy in holiday costume and blackface came in and asked for donations for children.
It was Black Pete, and the restaurant was cool with it.
So, here I am explaining to my boss that as weird as this all was, and how, if we were in the states all hell would have broken loose, this was part of the Christmas tradition in Belgium. The guy was Santa’s friend (although the way I put it, he used to be Santa’s slave but instead of kicking Santa’s ass when he got his freedom, he decided to stick around and help out for the holiday).
Now, I could have presented the story in the drab, ominous way this guy does for Vox:
But I think David Sedaris explained it much better: