December 6, 2013

Saint Nicholas, Patron Of Schoolchildren


Today, December 6th, is the day we in Belgium celebrate Saint Nicholas. According to tradition, Saint Nick goes around the country on his mule, recompensing the children who were good over the year, while his page, Black Pete in Dutch (some claim he was a slave freed by St. Nick and from then on became his lifelong companion) or the Père Fouettard in French (a monk whose face is covered in ashes and who carries a whip or baton), beats up the naughty ones (no joke).

The night before, excited children leave a few gifts for their patron Saint: a cup of coffee and a cookie, as well as a carrot for his mule, of course.  And in the morning, tadaaa, awesome presents have been left behind!

These gifts used to be oranges or nectarines (which back in the olden days were very rare and prized).  Today, we like speculoos, chocolate and marzipan, along with a toy or other present (the first I remember was a calculator to help me learn basic math, then came books the following years, which I still own to this day).

Here in the States, people have merger both Saint Nick and Father Christmas into one person. But believe you me, it's much more fun to be a kid in Belgium (or Holland, for their celebrate it too) because you have two awesome present-receiving days in December!

Traditional St. Nick food: speculoos, nectarines, chocolate,
marzipan covered in cocoa, an a cougnou bread --all super delish!
My favorite calculator in the whole wide world--
the little professor!



Additional Resources:
In French:
Saint Nicolas celebration
Cougnou bread
In English:
Saint Nicholas (aka Sinterklaas in Dutch)



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