A woman dressed as Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) takes part in an event heralding the arrival of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) in the Netherlands Nov. 16, 2013. 
REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images

Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, the famous character in Dutch Christmas tradition who works as Santa's helper, was bound to come up this Christmas, given that the "Petes" tend to be white people in blackface, wearing curly Afro wigs with exaggerated red lips.

As it turns out, Flemish Culture Minister Sven Gatz has apparently kick-started the conversation relatively early this year, after tweeting his attempt Sunday to dress up as the notorious character as part of a tradition that has sparked petition and protests. 

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In the photo—which Gatz sent out in a tweet with the translated words, "And we sing and we jump and we are so happy, because there are no naughty children"—he is seen in typical "Pete" attire, with his face painted dark brown, sporting red lips and a curly Afro, according to The Guardian

https://twitter.com/svengatz/status/673487488388866048

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Needless to say, he opened his Twitter mentions to an onslaught of criticism. On Monday, however, Gatz responded to the criticisms.

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"Engaged against racism all my (political) life. And now I'm an ordinary racist because I coloured my face dark. Come on. Love. Don't hate," he tweeted. 

https://twitter.com/svengatz/status/673781023684063232

As The Guardian notes, opponents slam "Pete" as a caricature of an African slave. 

Read more at The Guardian.