Saint Nicolas Day – December 6th – The Legend and a Song

Today is St. Nicolas Day. St. Nicholas was a bishop who lived in Myra, Turkey, from around 280 A.D. to December 6th, 342 or 343. His greatest legend is that he gave gifts to poor children.

There’s one specific legend surrounding St. Nick about an impoverished man who had three daughters. He was so poor that he couldn’t feed them and he decided that he had no alternative but to sell them into slavery.

The legend has it that St. Nicholas heard about these children. He sneaked over to their house at night and quietly left three bags of gold. One for each girl. He tried to sneak away, but the father saw him and praised his generosity to everyone.

Picture of St. Nicolas

In the 1100’s AD, in France, some nuns started giving gifts to children on St. Nicholas Day. That’s when the custom of gift-giving in December was established. Now some people celebrate the gift giving custom on St. Nicholas Day and others on Christmas Day.

Even though in France people generally give gifts for Christmas, there is a St. Nicholas Song they sing called La légende de Saint Nicolas. This one is about another legend of St. Nick. It’s a sadder one about a butcher who slaughtered three little kids and salted them like pork. Later St. Nicholas brought them back to life.

Here’s the song in French with an English translation by Monique Palomares of Mama Lisa’s World en français, plus the midi tune and a link to the sheet music…

Listen to the tune of La légende de Saint Nicolas

La légende de Saint Nicolas

Ils étaient trois petits enfants
Qui s’en allaient glaner aux champs.

1. Tant sont allés tant sont venus,
Que sur le soir se sont perdus.
S’en sont allés chez le boucher:
“Boucher voudrais-tu nous loger ?”


2. “Entrez, entrez, petits enfants
Il y a d’ la place assurément.”
Ils n’étaient pas sitôt entrés,
Que le boucher les a tués.
Autre version
Ils n’étaient pas sitôt entrés
Que le boucher les a tués
Les a coupés en p’tits morceaux,
Mis au saloir comme pourceaux


3. Saint Nicolas au bout d’ sept ans
Vint à passer dedans ce champ,
Alla frapper chez le boucher:
“Boucher voudrais-tu me loger ?”


4. Entrez, entrez, Saint Nicolas,
Il y a d’ la place, il n’en manqu’ pas.”
Il n’était pas sitôt entré
Qu’il a demandé à souper.


5. “Du p’tit salé je veux avoir,
Qu’il y a sept ans qu’est au saloir”.
Quand le boucher entendit ça,
Hors de sa porte il s’enfuya*


6.”Boucher, boucher, ne t’enfuis pas !
Repens-toi, Dieu te pardonnera”.
Saint Nicolas alla s’asseoir
Dessus le bord de ce saloir


7.”Petits enfants qui dormez là,
Je suis le grand Saint Nicolas.”
Le grand saint étendit trois doigts,
Les p’tits se levèrent tous les trois.


8. Le premier dit: “J’ai bien dormi”.
Le second dit:” Et moi aussi”.
A ajouté le plus petit:
“Je me croyais au paradis !”


The Legend of Saint Nicholas

They were three little children
Who went a-gleaning in the fields.

1. They went so much to, so much fro
That by the evening, they got lost.
They went to the butcher’s house.
“Butcher, would you accommodate us?”


2. “Come in, come in, little children
There’s room, for sure.”
No sooner had they come in,
Then the butcher killed them.
Other version
No sooner had they come in,
Then the butcher killed them.
He cut them into small pieces,
Put them in the salting-tub as piglets.


3. Saint Nicholas, after seven years,
Happened to pass in this field.
He went to knock at the butcher’s door,
“Butcher, would you accommodate me?”


4. “Come in, come in, Saint Nicholas.
There’s room, no shortage of it”.
No sooner had he come in,
Then he requested to supper.


5. “I want some of the salted meat,
That’s been for seven years in the salting-tub.”
When the butcher heard that
He ran away from his house.


6. “Butcher, butcher, don’t run away!
Repent, God will forgive you”.
Saint Nicholas went to sit down
On the edge of this salting-tub.


7.”Little children who’re sleeping there
I am the great Saint Nicholas.”
The great saint stretched out three fingers.
The little ones got up, the three of them.


8. The first one said “I slept well.”
The second one said “And I did too.”
The youngest one added:
“I thought I was in paradise!”


Sheet Music for La légende de Saint Nicolas

Many thanks to Monique for bringing this song to my attention!

Visit the St. Nicolas Page for more St. Nicholas Songs from Around the World.

Please feel free to comment below or email me if you’d like to share any other St. Nick songs or traditions.


P.S. Notice in the picture below that St. Nicolas is on the roof, putting toys down the chimney. It shows his roots in going down the chimney to deliver gifts to children. Click on the picture to get to a site all about St. Nicholas.

St. Nick on Roof

This article was posted on Wednesday, December 6th, 2006 at 10:15 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, France, French, French Kids Songs, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, La légende de Saint Nicolas, Languages, Mama Lisa, St. Nicholas Day, St. Nicolas Songs, The Legend of St. Nicolas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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