Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Tuesday, December 9


Belgium has two Santa Claus figures known as St. Nicholas and Père Noël. This is because Belgium is actually divided with part French-speaking and part Dutch-speaking people. They usually celebrate Christmas the same as others who speak their same languages. Santa Claus comes to the French as Père Noël, and he comes to the Dutch as St. Nicholas (or Sinter Klaas).

In France Santa Claus comes as Père Noël and is traditionally accompained by an assistant named Père Fouettard (French for The whipping Father). Père Fouettard has been accompanying Père Noël since at least the Middle Ages, making him a part of a long tradition associated with the season. Fouettard has a dark, ruffian like appearance and in the past his task was to dispense lumps of coal and/or spankings to the naughty children while Père Noël rewarded the good children with gifts. Père Noël visits each village for the first time on December 4th to check on each child's behavior, then returns on the 6th with treats for those who have been good and switches for those who haven't. These gifts are left in baskets in front of the doorways in return for hay, water, and carrots that children put out for his horse.

St Nicholas arrives early in Holland with his gifts. He is dressed in Bishop's robes and journeys in a boat with his helper. Many people go to Amsterdam docks to greet him. He mounts a snow horse and rides through the streets in a great parade, amid many festivities. His helper, Black Peter, who is garbed in the Renaissance fashion of puffed velvet breeches, rides alongside Saint Nicholas on a mule, his face covered in soot. It is said that the pair live in Spain most of the year preparing lists of presents and writing every child's behavior in a very large book. Children in the Netherlands believe that Saint Nicholas arrives on December 5th (the eve of his saint day) along with Black Peter. Black Peter would jump from roof to roof, sliding up and down chimneys, leaving gifts in the little wooden shoes left by the hearth. Children would fill their shoes with hay and carrots for Saint Nicholas’s horse and Black Peter’s mule. December 5th is Sinterklaas Eve or Sinterklass Eve, and presents are given and received. Farmers in Holland blow long horns at sunset each evening during the Christmas period. The horns are blown over water wells which makes the sound extremely loud. This is done to announce the coming of Christmas. Display in a shop in Holland near the temple, depicting the typical St. Nicolas and Black Peter.
Christmas Day is a religious time, and the day is spent with visits to Church. In the afternoon, people sit around the tree, sing carols and tell stories.


Blogger Crystal said...

Elder and Sister Miller, We love reading about your mission and miss having you in our ward and neighborhood. We especially liked reading today's post about Christmas there. We had a good chuckle over St. Nickolas and Black Peter. Very funny, we're still laughing. Poor Black Peter.
Jason and Crystal Thiriot

8:59 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I loved hearing about the traditions there. Pere Fouettard looks like a pretty scard dude. Yikes.

10:19 PM  

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