Christmas traditions of Scandinavia and France.

November 25, 2021 1 Comment

Christmas traditions of Scandinavia and France.

Hello and welcome to our festive blog!

Here at Corinne Lapierre, we love to learn about different traditions and tales from around the world.

Corinne's designs are heavily inspired by northern European folk art so we thought it would be fun to take a quick look at Scandinavian festive traditions as well as hear from Corinne about the legend of St Nicolas, a tradition she has passed onto her children who were born and raised in Yorkshire.


The illustration above is of a Nisse, pronounced Nisser, a familiar folklore creature from Scandinavia and similar to gnomes, popular in Germany, France and Britain. 

Nisse can grow to 2ft tall but most are smaller with an average height of 15 to 20 cm. There are different types of Nisse, some live in the woods, others gardens, barns or houses but all Nisse are self sufficient.

They are household spirits responsible for the care and prosperity of the farm they live in. They are close to their families and may move house with them, as they are more connected to the people they live with than the houses they live in. The most recognisable things about Nisse are their red pointed hats. They love looking after animals and helping the families they live with, if treated with love and respect. 

All they ask for is a bowl of porridge and a glass of glogg each night, but they are mischievous if they are not treated well and love a practical joke! 

Stories and Christmas cards from the late 1800s have helped to spread the image of Nissen, and preserved them as an important part of Scandinavian culture.

Today, on Christmas Eve, Nisse are still presented with a bowl of Christmas porridge and beer or glogg.


St Nicolas (or Nicholas) is recognised as the patron saint of children and in France, Germany, Belgium and Holland statues and paintings often portray him.

He was a bishop in Myra in the 4th century and is sometimes called Nicholas of Myra. He was known for his kindness and generosity and there are many legends surrounding him. A very well known story about him is that when he was still a young man, he heard his neighbours complain that they were too poor to marry their 3 daughters. It was winter and the daughters had hung their stockings to dry by the fireplace. During the night St Nicolas left some gold coins in the stockings for their dowry. This is thought to be the beginning of the Christmas stocking tradition.

In France St. Nicolas is best known in the north and north east. The most popular story there is about St. Nicolas saving 3 children from a very scary butcher. "I remember how fascinated and terrified I was as a little girl when I heard this story! I loved it. Saint Nicolas used to come and see us at school on his donkey and he would bring us some sweets and fruit. We would make all kind of crafts and sing songs for him" recalls Corinne.

"It was such a special time, because it also marked the beginning of the Christmas season. We would wait for St Nicolas to come and leave small surprises in our slippers on the night of the 5th of December and then we would start decorating the house for Christmas. It was so magical that I really wanted to pass this on to my children. They are far too old for it now, but they still leave their slippers out on the 5th and St Nicolas never fails to come and visit us on his little donkey!"

You can see more about St Nicolas festivities in Corinne's home city, Nancy here and you can read about the legend of the 3 children here.


"In Lorraine, all children would receive a pain d'epices (spiced gingerbread cookies) in the shape of St Nicolas as well as some satsumas. The smell alone takes me back to all the joy and excitement I felt at the time!"  adds Corinne. We found a great recipe if you would like to make your own

We think it is lovely that Corinne has passed this tradition down to her children and it is interesting to learn that some of the traditions of Europe are similar to those close to home, such as our garden gnomes and stockings filled with fruit and gifts, hung from the fireplace or at the end of the bed.

Another favourite tradition is the celebration of Advent. We can all recall the anticipation and excitement when opening each little door in the lead up to Christmas. Something Corinne was really keen to recreate for all crafters with her 4th Advent Calendar. We still don't know what the finished picture is, but we cannot wait to get started!

Have a wonderful month of December,

Corinne and the team x














1 Response

Gillian Nuttall
Gillian Nuttall

November 30, 2021

How lovely the tradions are.
I have read many stories about St Nicholas. The scandinavian ones are fascinating too.
I have finally managed to complete all 13 of the Days of Christmas set. I bought it when you first brought them out!!! quite a few years!!!
I am so looking forward to the Advent Calendar which I can start on Wednesday.
Thank you Corinne for your beautiful felt creations.

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