Ah! Christmas in Alsace… The most important feast day in the traditions of the region. The feast of life, the feast of children. And, if you think of an Alsatian Christmas, you think too of mulled wine and gingerbread.
Saint Nicholas, the Christkindel and Father Christmas
Before Father Christmas appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, and even before the Christkindel, a legendary character of Christmas night bringing gifts to good children since the sixteenth century, Saint Nicholas was already doing his rounds in the villages of Alsace.
The story of Saint Nicholas dates back to the fourth century A.D. He has been visiting children since the twelfth century.
Celebrated in Alsace, Germany and as far north as Scandinavia, Nicholas would reward obedient children on 6th December each year. As for tearaways, they would get a visit from the Bogeyman, the sinister companion of Saint Nicholas, dressed all in black.
On 5th December, all the children would leave their shoe by the door, along with a glass of milk and a carrot, before going to bed.
The next morning, the glass of milk would have been drunk by Saint Nicholas and the carrot eaten by the mule carrying the Saint. As for the shoes, they would be full of sweets, gingerbread and other sweet delicacies.
The custom still persists today that Saint Nicholas, whom children await with impatience, brings them all kinds of sweet things to eat each 6th December and especially his effigy made out of gingerbread.
Smell the products made from gingerbread and let the child in you remember the good old days…