December 6 is Saint Nicolas Day, popular in Alsace, Lorraine and the Nord-Pas-de Calais regions of France. Saint Nicolas (no “h” in the French version) was a 4th century Greek bishop. His miracles are said to include saving three children from the clutches of an evil butcher who had lured them into his shop and packed them into a barrel of salt. Nicolas revived the children, one of the reasons he’s the patron saint of children. Another act of charity was delivering purses of money to the three daughters of a poor man so they could afford to get married. According to one version of the legend, he threw the purses down the chimney and the money landed in the daughters’ stockings that were hung to dry by the chimney. Sound familiar? Today, he doesn’t bring dowries, but he and his donkey do bring presents to good boys and girls in France and other parts of Europe. Since the Middle Ages, he’s been accompanied by Père Fouettard who punishes the bad children with a spanking, although this has been downplayed by recent generations. Here’s one of the Saint Nicolas songs. Because his saint day was so near Christmas, many of the traditions got absorbed in the celebration later in the month. For someone who was always highly impatient for the big day, moving everything up almost three weeks would be fine by me! Joyeux Noël ! (sjweyeuh noel) Merry Christmas!