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In France and other French speaking areas, Pére Noël (Father Christmas) is the traditional gift giver. Although originally Pére Noël was depicted wearing a long robe and holding a wicker basket, he is now dressed in a very similar fashion to the American Santa Claus. He travels with his donkey “Gui” which means mistletoe in French. On Christmas Eve children leave their shoes (sabot) by the fireplace filled with carrots and treats for Gui. Pére Noël takes these and leaves small presents in there place.
In the north and eastern parts of France there is the legend of Pére Fouettard, (Father Whipper) who is the assistant to St. Nicholas. He is a sinister looking character, dressed in dark clothing, long beard and carrying a whip or bundle of sticks to punish the bad children. One of the legends regarding him dates to the fourth century. A butcher and his wife kidnap and kill three boys. When St. Nicholas discovers the crime he resurrects the children and the butcher joins St. Nicholas in repentance. Originally he was the punishing assistant, however in modern times he too is a gift giver.
The legends of Pére Noël and Pére Fouettard are at times intertwined into one character that brings gifts to good children and has switches to punish the naughty ones.
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