A newspaper in the Netherlands has apologised for linking Nelson Mandela's death to Santa's controversial blacked-up buddy Black Pete.

The article stayed on De Telegraaf's site for 30 minutes and was then removed after a barrage of reactions from disgusted readers.

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Festive fun? Or grossly inappropriate?


The paper has since apologised for linking the death of the anti-apartheid icon with the controversial character in the traditional Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas.

The opening sentence of an article collated reactions to Mandela's death and said: "There have been reactions abroad and in the Netherlands to the death of Nelson Mandela, which happened, of all things on Sinterklaas evening (with Zwarte Piet)."

Black Pete is the helper of Saint Nicholas, known in the Netherlands as Sinterklaas, who brings children gifts on Dec. 5.

He is traditionally portrayed by people in black-face makeup.

The character has been the focus of a fierce debate in the Netherlands recently between fans of the Sinterklaas tradition and opponents who call Black Pete a racist throwback.

The Telegraaf blamed the "tasteless link" on "an unfortunate convergence of circumstances."

"This should never have happened," the paper's editor in chief said, the Telegraph reported.

"It is never appropriate to make jokes about sad events such as the death of people. Even if they are never intended for publication, there is a risk this might happen."

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  • In this Nov. 18, 2012 photo persons dressed as "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete" attend a parade after St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, arrived by boat in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (AP Photo/ Margriet Faber, File)

  • In this Nov. 18, 2012 photo, a person dressed as "Zwarte Piet" or "Black Pete" attends a parade in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (AP Photo/ Margriet Faber, File)

  • A woman has her face painted to become Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in Soest on October 22, 2013. Zwarte Piet is, as part of the Dutch tradition, the companion of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas), and his yearly feast is celebrated on the evening of December 5. (ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A woman has her face painted to become Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in Soest on October 22, 2013. (ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A woman has her face painted to become Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in Soest on October 22, 2013. (ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) arrives at the festival on a white horse.

  • Children watch as the Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) procession arrives arrives in Dordrecht on November 13, 2011. (Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Princess Amalia (L) and princess Alexia (R) of the Netherlands greet Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) and Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) as the Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) procession arrives in Dordrecht on November 13, 2011. (Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images)