Filed under: Santa and His Posse | Tags: butcher, Christmas, France, Père Fouettard, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus
Leave it to the French to somehow incorporate violent food preparation into their Christmas legends.
In France, “San Nicolas” is accompanied by Père Fouettard (alternately translated as the “whipping father” or the “bogeyman”), who plays bad cop to Saint Nick’s good cop. On December 6, Saint Nick roams through France with his small donkey laden with gifts and treats, and each good boy and girl receives a present. The bad girls and boys, however, receive a visit from Père Fouettard, who lashes them with his whip.
The origins of Père Fouettard are quite sinister. He is said to have been a butcher who lured three young children into his shop, where he salted them and stored them away for later use (some versions have him chopping the children in pieces and cooking them in a stew. I’m guessing he used a little wine, a bouquet garni, garlic…oops, but back to the story.) Through the intervention of St. Nicholas, however, the children are resurrected/saved, and returned to their families. Père Fouettard was condemned to follow Saint Nick forever afterwards (and yet somehow, he gets the masochistic reward of whipping children for his sins?)
Check out this lovely illustration below (in which Père Fouettard is frighteningly reminiscent of the self-mutilating albino monk in The Da Vinci Code)–my rough translation appears beside it:
Père Fouettard: I am Père Fouettard, I don’t like children.
Child, foreground: Mom, I’m scared.
C’est bon. A lovely Christmas sentiment.
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