Saint Nicolas traditions and gifts

On the morning of 6th December children discover gifts and treats in their homes after a night visit from Saint Nicolas.

Traditionally, during the night of the first weekend in December, it is customary for Saint Nicolas to travel on his donkey and go to each home where children live. His mission is to reward all those who have been good by bringing confectionery and sometimes even small gifts. He is accompanied by the ugly Father Fouettard, a dark and unattractive character whose mission is to reprimand the rogues who were not good during the year.

Children's habits

Usually, on Saturday night during the first weekend in December, children put their little shoes in front of the fireplace or front door of their home before going to bed. Saint Nicolas places sweets and small gifts there, without forgetting to recover a carrot or a sugar cube for his faithful donkey.

The next day, the children discover their presents. The most traditional treats are gingerbreads or chocolate moulded in the shape of Saint Nicholas or his donkey. The children also eat little brioches shaped like men, made only during this holiday season. Toys have replaced the traditional orange and it is not uncommon that in some families in the Vosges that Saint Nicolas replaces Santa for the distribution of gifts.

Tradition has it that the Father Fouettard distributes rods made from wicker or brooms which are intended to whip disobedient children. However, the tradition has tended to disappear, although the hateful character is always present in the parade and visits to schools!