Père Noël, St Nicolas and traditional French crèches

LE PERE Nöel is known to all French children but in parts of the country he is still rivalled by his ancestor Saint Nicolas.

In fact, until the1980s many families in the Grand Est did not recognise Father Christmas at all – however, today the two co-exist side by side.
The original saint was a bishop from Turkey in the 4th century whose saint’s day is marked on December 6.

Legends grew of his generosity, especially to children, and the modern Santa derives from him after northern Europeans took their traditions to the US. However, although some people point to Coca-Cola for having popularised his look, Saint Nicolas has long been depicted in white and red robes.

A link with the saint was established in the east of France in the 10th century when a relic – part of the ‘blessing finger’ from his right hand – was brought to Lorraine and a church was built to house ...

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