The two Santas that deliver gifts to well behaved kids in France are pretty weird. One of them also has a very crazy sidekick.
The Christmas legend in Fance: Saint Nicholas brings children gifts on the night of December 5. Unlike Santa Claus, he’s tall and carries a cane. He also has a helper but he’s a lot rougher around the edges than Rudolph and the elves that can be found at the North Pole. His name? Père Fouettard. According to one legend, he once worked as an innkeeper. During a great famine in the 12th century, he became so desperate to keep his guests happy and fed that he lured three children into the inn’s basement. After killing them, he chopped them up before pickling them and tossing them in a barrel. Fortunately for the kids, Saint Nicholas was passing by and used his magical powers to bring them back to life.
Fouettard immediately repented and agreed to give up his day job and become the saint’s assistant. However, his nasty disposition remained. Fouettard was tasked with punishing naughty children while Saint Nicholas rewarded the good ones with presents. The imposing holiday helper wears dark robes, has a long beard and tangled hair, and will happily use his whip to punish misbehaving kids. He also likes to hand out lumps of coal instead of gifts
After Saint Nicholas and Fouettard finish their rounds on December 6th, they make way for Père Noël. This gift-giver delivers presents on Christmas Eve, typically while children and their parents are at mass. Beforehand, kids place their shoes next to a chimney with carrots in them for his donkey, Gui (whose name is French for “mistletoe.”).
Père Noël also wears a red cloak that’s lined with white fur. He likes to wear its hood over his head in order to hide his identity. Christmas Eve is a very busy time for him and Gui. In addition to bringing presents to children in France and other areas of Europe, they also have to make deliveries to the French speaking regions of South America. Noël also been known to pop up in Cajun households in Louisiana. He doesn’t bring Gui with him, but instead relies on a magical boat pulled by a team of eight alligators. The head lizard: Nicollette, who has scales that are as white as snow.