O grand Saint Nicolas

When you’ve lived in Luxembourg a few Decembers, you’ll be very familiar with Saint Nicolas – and even more so your children! Here are a few facts (well…) you might not know about him and about this day:

Saint Nicolas is the patron saint not only of children, but of prisoners, lawyers,  physiotherapists and singles! Very interesting combination and a versatile man!

In some regions, Saint Nicolas is inspired by the Norse chief god Odin who was accompanied by two black crows, Hugin and Munin, who could see everything, and his eight-legged horse Sleipner. So in these places, the man in red is accompanied by not one but two Père Fouettards / Zwarte Piets (who can’t see anything, at least not in Luxembourg) and also by a horse with the normal amount of legs.

In other regions, he is accompanied by an old lady, half fairy, half witch. Chez les chtis, in the north of France, he is followed by les Géants, gigantic figures from le folklore du Nord.

If you want to experience a huge Saint Nicolas celebration, head to Freiburg in Germany and watch Saint Nicolas ride through town on a donkey, getting off at the cathedral where he speaks to some 30 000 from the balcony. Saint Nicolas is patron saint of Freiburg. He is also patron saint of the French region of Lorraine right next door.

His full name in Luxembourgish is Zinnikleeschen – but we all of course know him and love him as Kleeschen. Here he is, seen on a foggy day in Esch Sauer, walking around in these beautiful Christmas surroundings:

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Text and photos by Unni Holtedahl, Saint Nicolas 2014  © Unni Holtedahl 2014

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