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French classes celebrate St. Nicholas Day

Taron Masi, Writer

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Soon children all over the United States will sit down to write their Christmas list to Santa Claus. Some will sing songs about the man with the white beard and red coat and on the Dec. 25 many will run to their Christmas tree to open up the presents left by Santa. In other places of the world, by the 25th kids will have already celebrated with their family by celebrating St. Nicholas Day, which falls on Dec. 6.

St. Nicholas was a European Christian bishop who provided gifts for the poor and sick. In the 18th century Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them as Sinterklaas, to America. In American culture St. Nicholas was transformed into the character know now called Santa Claus.

In Europe, some common practices and activities take place are when children receive treats including candy, cookies, small toys, or fruit. The treats are left in stockings, socks, shoes or bags night of Dec. 5. On the morning of Dec. 6, churches give special services dedicated to the feast of St. Nicholas. French teacher, Nicole Chouinard, and her classes decided to celebrate the European holiday by participating in St. Nicholas day activities.

“In Europe, one of the traditions they have for St. Nicholas day is they put their shoes outside their front door or by their fireplace,” Chouinard said. “As a result, they get little gifts and candy in their shoes. So we made a chimney outside in the hall, and my classes are going to take their shoes off and put them out by the chimney. If they complete their activity, St. Nicholas will come and fill their shoes with candy.”

Santa Claus’s characteristics were established in the 1820 poem “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore. He became known as a jolly, heavy man who comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children. Moore even created Santa Claus as the driver of a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Later cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nicholas legend with the 1881 drawing of Santa wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once the kind, charitable bishop, St. Nicholas, became the Santa Claus people know today.

“We celebrated St. Nicholas day and the French week,” senior Lucy Muesch said. “All the French students ordered t-shirts for French week. We also had matching mustaches for everyone to celebrate with. In Germany we would clean our boots and put them in front of the door or fireplace. Overnight St. Nicholas would come and fill our shoes if we were nice. Sometimes he would give us other little presents.”

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