Party Like It’s 345!

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

To the average modern Christmas consumer, St. Nicholas is that guy in red who somehow morphed into the abominable jolly old man riding sleds and drinking coca-cola.

But the image of “Santa Claus” greatly diminishes the import of the old, wise, holy bishop whose gifts managed to save so many children from slavery.

St. Nicholas, living in what is now Turkey in the early fourth century, (it is believed that he died in 345 AD,) was one of the Christian who suffered under the persecution of Diocletian. His selfless giving and cheerful presence protected many of those under his care, from saving young women from being sold into slavery to bringing murdered children back to life. (There are few very cool stories that establish him as a gift-giver and protector of children, so check them out here!)

The traditions of celebrating his day tend to revolve around shoes or stocking being filled with presents. This ceremony has been moved to take place on Christmas Day, alongside the rest of the gift-giving.

But in many families – particularly Catholic families – like to keep his own Feast Day: December 6th.

This is the day that my family gets ours stockings. Traditionally, we get up early, (before daddy has to leave for work,) sit in front of the fire, and each take turns emptying out stocking. We usually get chocolate coins -to remember the dowries that St. Nick gave –  oranges or other fruit, (my sister and I usually got pomnegranets,) -to symbolize the “gold balls” that the good Saint of sometimes said to have given – and then the specific traditional presents of out family. Funky pens or pencils, fuzzy socks, an action figure – one year I got an Eomer figure! – and a small item like nail polish, or a pocket knife.

But there is another St. Nicholas tradition that  I would like to introduce; that of singing a seventeenth century french song to commemorate one his miracles. This cheerful and delightful song is not likely to be found on any modern Christmas mix, and yet it manages to capture the power of Holiness that we ought to emulate.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

(Translation thanks to Daniel Police, over at the St. Nicholas Center.)

Three little children they were,
In the fields three little gleaners.
They gleaned and gleaned
Until the sun disappeared.
Il était trois petits enfants,
Qui s’en allaient glaner aux champs.
Ils sont tant allés et venus
Que le soleil on n’a plus vu.
They knocked at the door of a butcher.
“Butcher, will you give us shelter?”
“Not here, my little darlings,
We offer no lodging.”
S’en sont allés chez un boucher,
“Boucher, voudrais-tu nous loger?”
—”Allez, allez, mes beaux enfants,
Nous avons trop d’empêchement.”
His wife, standing behind him,
Slyly whispered in his ear,
“They have,” she said, “gold and silver,
You will become a rich merchant.”
Sa femme, qu’était derrière lui,
Bien vitement le conseillit,
“Ils ont, dit-elle, de l’argent,
Nous en serons riches marchands.”
“Do come in, my little darlings,
For sure you can have lodgings.
You can have a good supper,
And sleep under a warm cover.”
Entrez, entrez, mes beaux enfants!
Y a de la place assurément.
Nous vous ferons fort bien souper,
Aussi bien blanchement coucher.”
No sooner did they enter, then
They were slaughtered by the butcher,
Who cut them up and threw their parts
Into a salting tub, just as pork pieces.
Ils n’étaient pas sitôt entrés,
Que le boucher les a tués,
Les a coupés tout par morceaux,
Mis au saloir comme pourceaux.
Seven long years had passed,
When St. Nicholas visited here.
As he was tired, he went to the butcher,
“Butcher, would you have shelter?”
Quand ce fut au bout de sept ans,
Saint Nicolas vint dans ce champ.
Il s’en alla chez le boucher,
“Boucher, voudrais-tu me loger?”
“Pray, come in, Saint Nicholas,
I will not leave a holy man homeless.”
No sooner did he enter,
When he asked for some supper.
“Entrez, entrez, Saint Nicolas!
De la place, il n’en manque pas.”
Il n’était pas sitôt entrç,
Qu’il a demandé à souper.
“D’you want a slice of ham?”
“I won’t eat ham, no matter how hungry I am.”
“D’you want a nice piece of veal?”
“I do not want, it is not real.”
Voul’ous un morceau de jambon?”
—”Je n’en veux pas, il n’est pas bon.”
—”Voulez-vous un morceau de veau?”
—”Je n’en veux pas, il n’est pas beau.”
“How about salted meat in this tub?
This I would gladly eat.”
As the butcher heard the Saint speaking,
He took to his heels, to run afar.
“De ce salé je veux avoir,
Qu’y a sept ans qu’est dans le saloir.”
Quand le boucher entendit ça,
Hors de sa porte il s’enfuya.
“Butcher, butcher, don’t try to flee—
Repent and God will forgive thee.”
Then, Saint Nicholas placed fingers three
On the rim of the salting tub.
“Boucher, boucher, ne t’enfuis pas!
Repens-toi, Dieu te pardonn’ra.”
Saint Nicolas posa trois doigts
Dessus le bord de ce saloir.
The first child said,”I had a good sleep!”
The second said, “Mine was so deep!”
The youngest one opened his eyes,
“I thought I was in Paradise!”
Le premier dit, “J’ai bien dormi!
” Le second dit, “Et moi aussi!”
A ajouté le plus petit,
“Je croyais être en paradis!”
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