Media Release: Do you know the traditional Eastern French Santa Claus?

HE dresses in red, wears a mitre, carries a crosier, rides on a donkey and has a mischievous assistant: his name is Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas’ Day, on the 6th December is as important as Christmas in the northern and eastern French regions.

Traditionally, Saint Nicholas comes to people’s homes to offer sweets and delicious gingerbread to well-behaved children. Unfortunately for those on the naughty list, there is a visit from the Père Fouettard who will hand out punishments.

The origin of the legend started in Turkey, in 270 AD, where Nicholas was born.

He became well-known when his uncle the Bishop de Myre died, Nicholas succeeded him.

Said a spokesperson: “During his lifetime, Saint-Nicholas was the protector of children, widows and the poor. Today, the Basilica in Saint-Nicolas-de-Port, built in 1903, contains the saint’s remains, which are said to be the reason for the miracles and healings that happen to the pilgrims who go there.

“From Saint-Nicholas’ Day to Christmas time, is the perfect period to go to Lorraine and Alsace to stock up on regional products from the Christmas markets: duck liver pâté, chocolates from Hulot in Nancy or Christian in Strasbourg, gingerbread from Fresson in Metz, and the list goes on.

“Follow the wine roads in Alsace and its villages and discover the cultural and artistic customs, the firework displays, the craft markets, exhibitions and street parades, in this north-eastern region of France.”

See the complete programme on the Lorraine website and the Alsace website.

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