The Infant Jesus or Christkindel

In the eastern part of France, the cult of Saint Nicholas and pilgrimages to Saint Nicolas du Port were very popular in the Middle Ages. In the XVIth century, reformists placed greater emphasis on the image of the Christkindel or the Christ Child to divert popular fervour away from the saint. In Canada, it was also the Christ Child who filled the Christmas stockings of French Catholic children on the eve of December 25 while Saint Nicholas took care of young Anglophones. The Christkindel and Saint Nicholas remained the two main dispensers of gifts until the First World War.

The custom was for the Christkindel to be represented by young men and women dressed in white who would go from door to door distributing gifts to good children, making them sing carols or recite prayers. A frightening character called Hans Trapp accompanied the Christkindel on his rounds. His role was to beat children who had been naughty or to take them away in his big sack.

The Christkindel was played by a young girl veiled in white, crowned with fir boughs and burning candles, resembling the image of Saint Lucia. The proximity of the celebration of Saint Lucia on December 13 and her connection with light explains how her image could be confused with that of the Christkindel and of Jesus, Light of the World.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Mission de la recherche et de la technologie, Direction des Musées de France, Musée de la civilisation, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Musée national des arts et traditions populaires, Département de l'organisation des systèmes d'information,

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