There are a great many legends told about Saint Nicholas in Lorraine.
All Lorraine children know that the patron saint rescued and brought back to life three children that were chopped into pieces by a cruel butcher! Protector of children and schoolchildren, Saint Nicholas was named as Lorraine’s patron saint in 1477 by René II, Duke of Lorraine.
A bit of history
The event is inspired by Nicholas of Myra, born in modern-day Turkey, around 270 AD. He succeeded his uncle as the bishop of Myra and became known for his great generosity towards the people.
Worship of the saint arrived in Western Europe at the end of the 11th century. A Crusader, the Lorraine knight Aubert de Varangéville returned to his native village of Port, on the Meurthe River, with one of the saint’s phalanxes. This precious relic was housed in the specially constructed church, which later became the Saint-Nicolas-de-Port Basilica.
Pilgrimage to Saint-Nicolas-de-Port
A great many miracles are attributed to Saint Nicholas, the most famous certainly being the miracle of the Lord of Réchicourt. The story goes that the Lord was imprisoned during a crusade in a faraway land. He prayed every night for the saint to free him. To his astonishment, one 5th December in or about the year 1240, he was roused by the cold and woke up at the door of the Saint-Nicolas-de-Port church, today a basilica. It marked the beginning of a tradition and an annual torch-lit procession is still held to thank the patron saint for his grace.
The tradition continues
On the eve of 6 December, Lorraine’s children still continue the tradition of placing their shoes on the doorstep, along with something to drink and a carrot for the saint’s donkey.
Children that have behaved themselves receive gingerbread and an orange in exchange.
Parades, decorations, processions, street performances, fireworks: all of Lorraine joins in the celebrations as the famous day of December 6th draws near.
No matter what its shape, its ingredients (there’s something to suit all tastes, from traditional to the more daring) or its label, gingerbread, like Saint Nicholas, is constantly being reinvented and is always a surprise. To the delight of all food lovers.