AMSTERDAM (AP) -- A Dutch Facebook page seeking to preserve the country's fall "Sinterklaas" festival exactly as it is -- including clowns in blackface makeup known as "Black Petes" -- has received nearly a million 'likes' just 24 hours after it was created.
The swift growth of the 'Pete-ition" page reflects the depth of emotional attachment most Dutch people feel to the tradition, and their annoyance at outsiders who judge it without understanding it.
On Tuesday a U.N. expert condemned the tradition as racist.
In the festival, St. Nicholas arrives in mid-November accompanied by a horde of helpers -- the Black Petes, who also have red lips and curly hair. Opponents say they are an offensive caricature of black people; supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless.