Written by Jamie Chennells
While the Kingdom of Belgium only has a population of 11 million people, they have found reason to have not one, but two Santa Claus Figures. Saint Nicholas is on the scene, but comes up against fierce Christmas competition from Père Noël and his sidekick. That’s all happening TODAY.
Well, it’s not that fierce, and they don’t compete; the two Christmas figures are actually quite diplomatic about their approaches, and there are no territorial showdowns involving sleigh-offs, head-to-head deer drag races, or chimney runs. The current agreement they have in place results in those citizens speaking Walloon getting a visit from Saint Nic, and those speaking straight French receiving a visit from Père Noël.
Saint Nicholas is actually a 4th century saint, and was also the Greek Bishop of Myra. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, and used to put coins in the shoes of those that left them outside. In his most famous exploit, he saved three daughters from becoming prostitutes by anonymously delivering bags of gold to their father’s house in the dead of night.
What Do These Cats Have To Do With This Article?Père Noël follows a somdonewhat more traditional approach to Christmas as we know it; he dons the red suit, has a sassy team of reindeer, and has a workshop in his name somewhere around the North Pole. He also, however, seems to be attracted to shoes. As the tradition goes, children leave their shoes by the fireplace before bedtime, filled with carrots and treats. Alas, we skew from normality at this stage, as Père Noël has a donkey called Mistletoe. All these treats end up being given to Mistletoe, and if I know anything about kids, this donkey must receive a lot of carrots around December. Papa Noël then replaces these offerings with delightful gifts small enough to fit into their shoes. If the kids have been naughty, their carrots and donkey offerings are replaced with nothing but a pile of sticks.
Interestingly, both figures are being celebrated today (December 6th), and are done so with church services, quiet family gatherings, and specially baked cakes. December the 25th still sees the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, but this is considered a more Western tradition, and has only been embraced by a small portion of the population.If you have any Belgian friends, make sure you catch them by surprise today and hand them a couple of carrots for their shoes; they may just thank you in the morning