For children of the French provinces of the Alsace, Lorraine and the Flanders, Saint-Nicolas is the character who distributes presents on the 6th December. He is the Patron Saint of Lorraine whose people organise large-scale parades in their towns in early December.
In the North-East of France, Saint-Nicolas is often portrayed as a tall thin man with a long white beard, all dressed up in silk garments, carrying a bishop’s mitre and holding a crosier. Saint-Nicolas is traditionally accompanied by a grey donkey carrying baskets filled with biscuits, sweets and gifts.
When the Dutch migrated to the United States in the 19th century, they took with them the traditions of St. Nicolas (aka Sinterklaas) which gradually evolved into Santa Claus, a moralist character whose duty was to reward good children and punish the bad ones.
Read more about St. Nicolas in French on Mon-Grand-Est, my blog dedicated to Eastern France.