Sunday, May 3, 2009

Père Noël is the gift-giver of France.

       Père Noël is a legendary gift-giver during Christmas in France and French-speaking areas, identified with Santa Claus in English speaking territories.
      According to tradition, on Christmas Eve children leave their shoes by the fireplace filled with carrots and treats for Père Noël's donkey, Gui (French for "Mistletoe") before they go to bed. Père Noël takes the offerings and, if the child has been good, leaves presents in their place. Presents are traditionally small enough to fit in the shoes; candy, money or small toys.
      Père Noël is sometimes confused with another character. In Eastern France (Alsace and Lorraine regions) there is a parallel tradition to celebrate Saint Nicolas on December 6. He is followed by Le Père Fouettard, who exists also in Germany (Knecht Ruprecht), Austria (Krampus), Holland (Belsnickel) and Belgium (Zwarte Piet). Le Père Fouettard is a sinister figure dressed in black who accompanies Saint Nicolas and whips children who have behaved badly.
      In Brazil, due to the influence of French culture in the 19th century, the name of Papai Noel was adopted, opposing for example the name of Pai Natal in Portugal. However he is dressed in the North American style.

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