St. Nicholas in Fribourg (FR)


First weekend of December.

When night falls, St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Fribourg, rides a donkey through the streets of the old city, leading a procession towards the platform erected under the portico of the cathedral. From this tribune, the student playing the role of the saint, addresses the large crowd assembled in the square.

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In his speech, the student portraying St. Nicholas reviews the past year in Fribourg and at the St. Michael secondary school. All along, there are some rather cutting remarks. Then the procession returns to the school for a festive meal.

This traditional celebration of St. Nicholas Day, which is also organized elsewhere in the canton, e.g. Bulle, and which was revived at the beginning of this century, dates back to an ancient custom celebrated in Fribourg in the eighteenth century: the miracle performed by St. Nicholas. Legend has it that St. Nicholas brought three children back to life after they had been cut up by a butcher and put in the salting tub. This story, which is depicted on the cathedral portico in Fribourg, has established St. Nicholas as the tutelary saint of children, especially boys, while St. Catherine is the guardian angel for girls. St. Catherine's Day, November 25, used to be celebrated in similar fashion in Fribourg.

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