Just returned from Switzerland with additional very convincing new evidence that black face painting in the European winter is thousands of years old and goes back to prehistoric happiness-and fertility rites, which are still celebrated annually in almost all European countries in previously isolated places. Roughly between Sinterklaas (on Lake Zug) and Ash Wednesday (Graubünden).
There only unmarried girls are smeared with soot after being thrown into the snow by boys with bells around the waist dressed as animals. Later they come back to the place with a baby in a buggy to watch the spectacle. Sometimes they have a baby doll on their arm. It's about pairing. The first written messages date from the Middle Ages.
In the Netherlands in the 19th century, Santa was called Hylickmaker, or marriage broker, and in the east of the country, black painted boys dressed as Zwarte Pieten till today make black girls unmarried with soot. Soot is a symbol of fertility and happiness.
See the taboo-breaking film images on www. PaganEurope.com
Or order the English spoken- and subtitled docu Pagan Europe on DVD or via VOD.