Twas the night before…uh, what day is it again?

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

Not being catholic and therefore knowing nothing about saints, I always assumed good ol’ St. Nick and Santa Claus were the same guy. In essence they sort of are…in the sense that Santa Clause (or Père Noël) is based on a real guy; St. Nicolas de Myrne (from Turkey). He is the patron saint and protector of children (and students) as well as the Lorraine region of France. 3 weeks before Christmas Eve, that magical night when Santa Clause flies around the world with his magical reindeer and sack full of toys*, St. Nicholas comes around with his sack of toys on his trusty donkey accompanied by Père Fouettard who hands out rotten apples and things to all the naughty children.

December 6th is his day and like Christmas Eve, the eve of the 5th holds a special tradition. All the traditions you know that go with Santa Clause are very similar to St. Nicholas – since the inspiration for SC was the real man. Of course, as with any legend, the stories of St. Nicholas are highly exaggerated, but they do hold a little grain of truth. He was a kind and generous man (Nicholas of Myrne) and the legends reflect that.

St. Nicolas and his trusty steed preparing to reward all the good children of the world.

Like the tradition of hanging stockings on the mantel, for St. Nicholas shoes are placed by the chimney; if you don’t have one you would place your shoes by the door or your bed. Along with the shoes is placed a carrot and some sugar for the donkey, and a glass of wine (or other spirits/drinks depending on the region) for St. Nicholas to help him stay warm. You know the Knight tent I mentioned before? Well, that was one of Bastien’s St. Nicholas gifts. Children get gifts on the 6th of December from him. Then 3 weeks later Père Noël comes along with more. Of course, not every family celebrates both, but these are the two traditions. Santa Clause is the more Americanized version, totally commercial, where St. Nicholas is based on a religious figure. He was a Turkish bishop.

All is in readiness for St. Nicolas' arrival.

Originally – and you may have seen pictures of this, I know I have – Santa Clause was dressed in green. So as not to be confused with St. Nicholas. Those of us in North America anyway will know him best as that jolly fat man with his snow-white beard and hair dressed in red with white trim and black belt and boots. According to the paper my teacher handed to us the tradition of the red clothes can be attributed to the Coca Cola company and their Coke ads around Christmas. I guess they decided he should be dressed in red and white to match their colours?

There’s also a song that children sing telling St. Nicholas to come, they’ll be good so he’ll bring them candy, come and visit them. I got a video of the last half of it when Bastien, Adeline, and Greg were singing it. It’s amazing the things you learn when you’re away from home ;).

In other news, I think Bastien is feeling a bit better tonight. He had a fever today, he was really, really warm. Once that broke looked a lot better. I guess he couldn’t keep his dinner down, but when I got home from class he was playing and was actually pretty rowdy. He did sleep a lot today, I guess he really needed it. You can tell he was actually sick because he was feeling too crappy to misbehave. He had a nap this morning, and again this afternoon. After a little he came downstairs, but I said it was really important that he get as much rest as possible and he didn’t fight me, but went back upstairs and to sleep.

I realized today that I only have to more French classes left. The 19th is my last one. Class was cancelled last week because my teacher’s granddaughter was born last Monday. So today Madame Colette brought in gummies and Smarties to celebrate that, and the Ferrero Rochers, clementines, nick-nacks, and chocolate covered marshmallow bars in honour of St. Nicolas. There were only 4 of us there today (actually, the 4 who are the most…competent in the class) so there was a lot of extra candy and we were told to take a lot. I took some extra gummies for Bastien because the doctor said he was supposed to have sugar, but no milk or chocolate. We talked about St. Nicolas and the tradition and then we did some grammar. It was a good class.

Oh! I keep forgetting. Sylvain can stand up on his own now, without wall, chair, or any other support. He’s making great progress and loves to walk around the house growling at things – especially the cat. He’ll go off, just wandering around, and then he’ll start walking back towards you and if you hold out your arms he’ll walk right into them and lay his head against you for a second…I think that’s his version of a hug/kiss. And he does all of it with a big smile on his face.

He's making a list, checking it twice... Or is that the other guy?

I guess we made it on the 'good' list. 😉

Sorry about the pictures…I’ll have to try to fix them later. The edit feature is not working :(.

*For those of you who choose to believe. Or if you just think it’s fun. ^_^

                                                                                                                        

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© 2010-2011 hollyjb

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2 Comments

  1. David Sedaris has a wonderful short story called “12 Black Men” about the holiday tradition of some northern European country. It is hysterical. You might enjoy reading it.

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