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Saint-Nicolas/Sinterklaas has filled our home with gifts!


Saint Nicholas

Ángela Ruz Calero

Translation into English: Sara Sánchez González

December 6: Special Day for Spaniards and Belgians. For the first ones, is the Constitution Day; for Belgians, the day all children have been waiting for the whole year. And this morning, the youngest members of the family have awoken with the hope of finding a lot of presents from Saint-Nicolas and Père Fouettard inside their shoes (only, of course, if they have been good kids during the year…).

But you might wonder: who is Saint-Nicolas? He is a man with a huge white beard, dressed in red and white, who is always holding a golden crosier. Maybe you say… “Santa Claus!” NO!! Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas for the Flemish people) was a real man who became a Saint and was canonized, just the moment when he picked up popularity!

There are many legends about the identity of this character and they depend on the region of Belgium you live (He is also well known in any other European countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and France). The most common tells that Saint-Nicolas was, during his lifetime, the protector of children, coming from the East to help them. Hence the idea of that, each year, during the night of December 5, St. Nicholas travels from Spain (apparently has his residence in a warmer country, so he is not silly at all…), loaded with toys for all the children who have behaved properly during the year.


Père Fouettard, assitant of Saint Nicholas

Saint-Nicolas doesn’t work alone, it is more… HE DOESN’T DO ANYTHING! All the effort is maked by his assistant, Père Fouettard: a young man who loads with all the gifts and has to slide down the chimney to leave the presents in the shoes of the children. Because of this, this character appears always stained from soot and shown with black skin. This appearance, apparently, creates a continuous battle in Belgium, between some sectors asking to withdraw this traditional festivity, since they consider it racist: “the white man always goes on his donkey and instructs to the black one, who works”, is their argument. However, we must keep in mind that actually Père Fouettard was a white boy who, thankful for the goodness of Saint-Nicolas, decided to help him and spot of soot in his mission on behalf of children. Therefore, even in its origin, the story doesn’t have racist implications.

How do children prepare this magical night? Leaving their shoes next to the chimney and carrots for the donkey of Saint-Nicolas and waiting impatiently for the next day! In the morning, when they get up, children will find out that carrots are gone (Magic!) and that there are large packages full of toys, which have been previously asked on his letter to Saint-Nicolas. But WATCH OUT those who haven’t been good kids during the year, because Père Fouettard will take them into his sack and run away! Thus, all children are trying to have a good behavior during the year, terrified by the idea of waking up away from his family on December 6!

As we have said before, adults also celebrate their particular Saint-Nicolas, but, in general, we get chocolate figures (white, milky and black) of Saint-Nicolas and Père Fouettard, which we can find at supermarkets throughout the month of November. And I’ve received one chocolate figure of Saint-Nicolas with the same enthusiasm as a little girl!

Now, we will have to wait a year to get the visit of our dear main characters of this post. Anyway, don’t forget to be a good “kid” to get your chocolate figure/gifts next year!

[This festivity is very similar to the one of the “Three Kings“]

¡Encuentra la versión española de este post AQUÍ!


3 comments on “Saint-Nicolas/Sinterklaas has filled our home with gifts!

  1. Pingback: ¡Saint Nicolas/Sinterklaas ha llegado cargadito de regalos! | De pendoneo por Bélgica

  2. Bijbelvorsers
    December 9, 2013

    Père Fouettard or Black Peter is mostly called “Zwarte Piet”.

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This entry was posted on December 8, 2013 by in Belgium, Curiosity, visitbelgium and tagged , , , , , , , .
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