Saint Nicholas is portrayed in many legends, like the one where he brought back to life three children that had been chopped into pieces in a brine tank by a cruel butcher. Protector of kids and schoolchildren, he is also the patron saint of Lorraine since 1477.
Saint Nicholas is the subject of many legends. Known for his generosity, the patron saint of the Lorraine people is celebrated here with fervour. In Nancy, Louise carries on the tradition.
A native of Nancy, Louise fondly remembers the festivals of her childhood. “On the evening of December 5th, my brother, my sister and I prepared for the coming of Saint Nicholas. It was a very joyous occasion. On our doorstep, we left him something to drink and a carrot for his donkey. We also made him drawings. The next morning, we couldn’t wait to see what Saint Nicholas brought us. If we were good, we joyfully found our stockings filled with oranges, candy and the famous gingerbread.”
As she got older, Louise understood that it wasn’t Saint Nicholas that brought her sweets, but her parents. Today, as a grandmother, she keeps the tradition alive by bringing together her children and grandchildren every year. Now she’s the one preparing the gifts. She also cooks traditional biscuits that fill the house with the sweet aroma of cinnamon, orange and honey.
“We wouldn’t miss this moment for anything. My children live on the other side of France and they come back to celebrate Saint Nicholas as a family. For us, it’s just as important as Christmas. Saint Nicholas is above all an atmosphere. On Saturday evening, we go to the torch-light procession at Saint-Nicolas-de-Port Basilica. A relic of Saint Nicholas is on display there. Hundreds of us walk and sing, candles in hand, to honour him. It’s a very moving moment.”
In the beginning of December, Lorraine resonates with the festivities of Saint Nicholas: illuminations, decorations, street performances, processions, fireworks… Traditional bakers and pastry chefs try to outdo each other with inventive recipes. Gingerbread in the shape of the saint or contemporary creations, chocolates, and more. A delight for the eyes and for the taste buds.
To close the festivities, great parades with floats and brass bands march through the streets, bringing a smile to both young and old alike. It’s the chance to say hello to Saint Nicholas and get some candy.