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La fête de Saint-Nicolas

Traditionally, holiday decorations in French homes, streets, and shops do not appear until after December 6th. On that date, in certain parts of the country, the French fêtes de fin d'année, or end of the year celebrations officially begin as it's the day that la Saint-Nicolas arrives on a donkey to deliver gifts for children. With him, again in certain traditions, is le Père Fouettard, a terrifying character who, according to tradition, and parents' admonishments, doles out lumps of coal or beatings to any naughty little children he encounters. (St. Nicolas has also morphed into le Père Noël who visits the country's children on la veille de Noël, Christmas Eve, to fill their sabots, aka their wooden shoes, with presents, toys, and candy. Thank goodness, we don't have a corresponding Père Fouettard. Instead, the American Santa simply marks "Naughty" next to any child's name...a decent enough deterrent for most kiddos!)

Le Saint-Nicolas
Le Saint-Nicolas

Le Pere Fouettard
Le Père Fouettard by Lidine Mia - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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