On Friday (December 4th), it was my turn for carpool and I picked the kids up from school. When I got to sweet pea's classroom, she bounded out of the room and squealed that Santa came and brought her presents. I looked at the teacher for more information but she was busy speaking to another parent. So I gathered all the kids up, got them to the car, buckled them in, passed out snacks, and started plying the kids with questions.
Me: So, you saw Santa today
Me: What do they call him in French. Père Noël? (Father Christmas)
Elijah: No, St. Nicholas (Ni-cola...like Ricola the cough drops but with an n)
Girls: Oui! St. Nicholas donné-moi des bonbons (he gave me candies)
Elijah: St. Nicholas was big! I even measured him! He was so big!
Ruth: Il donné des bonbons à mes amis. (He gave candies to my friends)
*The kids proceeded to correct one another on their pronunciation on St. Nicolas (NEE-cola vs. NI-cola...I couldn't tell the difference but they could). This followed by the kids pulling out their bag filled with small taffies and a package of Speculoos cookies and caressing it with much relish.
After talking to some of the other moms, one was able to talk to a Belgian friend to get more information. December 6th is St. Nicholas Day, a day where the patron saint (Catholic) is celebrated. He comes to town mid-November and travels to churches, schools, and businesses delivering treats to all, usually special cinnamon biscuits (Speculoos). On December 5th, there is a feast in his honor at all households where he could show up as an honored guest if he wanted. That night, children place their shoes by the chimney or in the foyer by the door along with hay and carrots for his horse and beer or coffee for him. During the night, St. Nicholas will go door to door with his assistant Père Fouettard (Black Peter) who will place chocolate letter candies or small toys in the shoes for all good children. For the naughty children, they will wake up to see a birch branch stick for which their parents are to punish them or if they are especially naughty, Black Peter (either a black man or a man with soot covering his face, interpretations vary) will place the child in the sack and send him to Spain! Sometimes when St. Nicholas is in a hurry, he will leave a bag of gifts on the door step and will knock on the door as he is leaving.
|St. Nicholas and Black Peter|
What? You were expecting something a bit different, weren't you?
He wears a Bishop's rope and red cape with a miter
|Cookies for the feast|
|St. Nicholas came!!!|