Tu crois au Père Noël ?
tew krwah o pair no-ELL? Click below to hear this.
Do you believe in Santa Claus?
If you live in northern or northeastern France, you are very familiar with le Saint Nicolas (luh saa nee-ko-LAH). He’s the fellow who comes around on December 6 to bring gifts to all the good little girls and boys. The children place their shoes outside their door on this night, and the gifts are left in the shoes.
If the children are naughty, not nice, tradition says they will get a whipping from le Père Fouettard (luh pair fway-TAAR, Father Whipper), who travels with le St. Nicolas and carries a big stick.
So how do we get from le Saint Nicolas to le Père Noël to Santa Claus? And how do we get from December 6 to December 25?
Le Saint Nicolas is something of a Germanic import, and of course northeastern France borders on Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. His name in Dutch is Sinter Klaas, which is where our name Santa Claus comes from. And in Great Britain, Santa is known as Father Christmas, which translates to the French as le Père Noël.
As for the dates, Germanic tradition included a strong attachment to the feast day of the kindly old St. Nicholas. British tradition clung more to the celebration of Christmas with gifts and festivities on December 25. France draws its cultural heritage from both sources, so the two holidays are beloved in different parts of France.
Note that croire means to think or to believe, but croire à means to believe in (the existence of something). So:
Je te crois. I believe you.
Je crois au Père Noël. I believe in Father Christmas/Santa Claus.
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