A pre-Christmas Dutch tradition that dates back to the 19th century is sparking debate in New Zealand thanks to its controversial character Black Pete.
Over the weekend, the Dutch community in Auckland gathered to celebrate the feast of St Nicholas, held every year on December 5. It involves people dressing up as Black Pete by blackening their faces with paint, colouring their lips red and wearing curly black wigs.
Critics have taken to social media to condemn this year's event, held at Dutch Delight restaurant in the North Shore suburb of Birkenhead on Saturday and Sunday, suggesting it is racist and does not belong in New Zealand.
But the restaurant owner told the Herald he and his staff had received nothing but positive feedback and said it had nothing to do with racism.
Also known as Zwarte Piet, Black Pete is said to be the companion and helper of Sinterklaas, a figure based on St Nicholas. But the history and story behind Black Pete is fiercely debated.
Most people say Black Pete has a black face because he came down the chimney to give gifts to children, others point to variations of the story that have him as a slave rescued or taken in by St Nicholas. Others say he was a Moor from Spain or an orphaned child.
This longstanding tradition of people blackening their faces as Black Pete is also followed in Belgium and Luxembourg and has met increasing criticism around the world, including in the Netherlands where there have been protests.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on the Netherlands to revamp its Black Pete Christmas tradition because some saw it as a "vestige of slavery".
When Birkenhead restaurant Dutch Delight posted photos and videos of its well-attended parade and feast on its Facebook page on Saturday, it drew plenty of positive feedback from the Dutch community.
But it also attracted some negative attention.
One Facebook user said: "There are a lot of angry people talking about how it is racist!"
Another person posted a picture of the parade on the Birkenhead and Northcote community Facebook page and wrote: "I realise this is tradition; but is it really something our kids need to be seeing up the street as they grow up, thinking it's quite alright to be wearing blackface in the name of tradition?"
But some people did not see a problem with the parade.
One person wrote: "Kids don't see colour and race they see a car with funny people having fun at least that's what my kids see."
Dutch Delight owner Willem van der Velde said it was all about kids and tradition, not racism and slavery.
Mr van der Velde has held a St Nicholas feast every year since he opened the restaurant in 2006.
The Black Petes drive past the restaurant on motorbikes and cars, with a waving Sinterklaas, and give children gifts and sweets.
"Some people say it is racist because they are slaves," Mr van der Velde explained.
"They are not slaves at all because they are the funny people from that party. They're making jokes, they do funny stuff and even black people have no problems with it at all.
"It's only a handful of people who say 'Oh, that's racist'.
"For a lot of Dutch people, especially older Dutch people who are here in New Zealand for a long time, it brings back memories."
Mr van der Velde estimated about 300 people were involved in the event in and around his restaurant at the weekend and said there was not one single negative response.
"I only do it to make everybody happy and everybody who was in my restaurant were very happy. I don't want to upset people. I only want to celebrate."
The 61-year-old moved to New Zealand from the Netherlands about 11 years ago. In Holland, he played Black Pete for 35 years.
"I like to organise things like that and I know all the Dutch people love it. Especially when you are in a different country, especially in New Zealand -- so far away from everything. I know that people miss those things."
A spokeswoman for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission told the Herald this afternoon that the HRC supports the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in urging all people to challenge and talk about racial stereotypes.
"Not too long ago New Zealanders thought it was OK to have children books about Little Black Sambo but most Kiwis now realise this was offensive and prejudiced.
"The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged the Dutch Government to show leadership but it is the Dutch people - including Dutch Kiwis - who have to ask themselves whether this is OK in 2015."