It’s that time of the year when children in Belgium are so excited that you can’t keep them quiet . It’s Saint Nicholas day! In The Netherlands, Belgium and northern France it’s centuries-old custom for the children to receive gifts and sweets from the Saint. they leave their shoes and stockings in front of a chimney or a window and pray that they’ve been good enough for the great Saint to pay a visit to their home, also fearing that « Pere Fouettard » , Saint’s help won’t beat them with his stick!
Saint Nicholas comes from Turkey, the legend says that he saved three children from a monstruous butcher who wanted to kill and eat them. I remember that story used to terrify me as a child. He is since then the saint patron of the children but he also protects mariners, lawyers, prisoners and single persons!
Nicholas also sometimes travel on a boat for the joy of the audience welcoming him and his staff! It’s always a nice show to see!
In some families, but less and less and that’s kind of sad, gifts aren’t wrapped as they are supposed to come straight from the Saint’s office in the clouds 😉
Saint Nicholas also has some duties before his round in houses, he’s much awaited in several shops and malls in Belgium, giving sweets to nice children on his way! He also visits schools, nurseries and hospitals. When they see him, children sings Saint’s related songs such as
« O great Saint Nicholas
Patron of the schoolchildren
bring us apples in our small baskets
we will always behave
just as little sheeps do
We’ll learn our lessons ( another version says : we’ll say our prayers)
come,come, Saint Nicholas (2x)
and Tralala! »
The dutch version asks « Sinterklaas » (Saint Nicholas) , the « kapoentje » (comes from Kapoen,a mischievious young) to lay something in the child’s basket, thanking him to do so, « thank you Sinterklaasje! » .
The songs are also sung on the eve of the big day, hoping that the Saint will bring toys and sweets to show to hard awaken parents 😉
Saint Nicholas crossed the Altantic with the settlers and immigrants and gradually became Santa Claus in the US but with the world being as it is, Santa Claus has make a come back in Europe (mainly starting with France and american soldiers) too for decades now so little ones have now two saints to cherish them. Guess who’s happy?