The tradition of ”Zwarte Pieten”, or Black Peter, sees followers paint their faces black, don red lips and afros during the festive season.
For the past 150 years residents have paraded though towns dressed as Saint Nicholas’ helper, but processions have grown increasingly violent in recent years.
Anti-Racist groups have begun demonstrating against the parades, calling for the tradition to be scrapped claiming it is offensive to non-whites.
But followers have defended the practice, stating the colouring is to depict the soot from the chimneys, and is not referring to skin colour.
GETTYThe tradition of ”Zwarte Pieten”, or Black Peter, sees followers paint their faces black
Critics have likened the look to a colonial character, and several protest groups have been set up calling for the abolition of the practice.
Demonstrators from the group Kick Out Zwarte Piet clashed with police in Rotterdam last weekend, who tried to stop them en route to the parade.
Supporters took to social media after the scuffle criticising the group, with one person posting: "Let them continue spoiling a tradition and a children's festival.
Dramatic footage from the scene show bloodied men grappling with police, while dozens more are sat on the pavement before fighting breaks out among police and the crowd.Tue, September 27, 2016
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Our culture first
“Hope they choke on their 'racism'. Get lost already!"
And in the town of Maassluis, hundreds of police were drafted in the guard the procession, and visitors were required to undergo body searches before being allowed near the route.
GETTYFollowers have defended the practice, stating the colouring is to depict the soot from the chimneys
During the procession neo-Nazi political group Nederlandse Volks-Unie (NVU), the Dutch People’s Union, held a banner saying: “Our culture first”.
The far-right group has called for the “attacks” on their culture and traditions to end.
There is currently a divide between cities and more rural areas, who are refusing to change their ways, claiming it is part of Dutch culture.
The countryside’s dominant paper carried the headline "We believe in Zwarte Piet" at the beginning of this month, when the parade season kicks off.
GETTYSeveral protest groups have been set up calling for the abolition of the practice
Defenders have said Dutch identity is at stake, which has been the subject of fierce debate as millions on migrants settle across the continent and integrate into European countries.
The first ‘migrant party’, DENK, or Think, was set up in the Netherlands last year, and is a fierce critic of the Black Peter parades.
GETTYDefenders have said Dutch identity is at stake
They are hoping to score big in the upcoming March elections, running on a staunch anti-racist ticket.
Throughout history the practice of people with blackened faces were referred to as ‘minstrels’ and usually performed songs in a band.