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Annonce aux bergers (Announcement to the Shepherds)
Livre d’images de Madame Marie Hainaut, vers 1285-1290.
Paris BnF Naf 16251

I used this beautiful image last year and continue to love it. I like the angel’s little feet and the animals.  It is une nuit étoilée: a starry night.

The Internet has several entries on the Livre d’images de Marie Hainaut.  Facsimiles are also available. One is the work of Alison Stones. It is affordable, but others are more expensive.


“The Announcement to the Shepherds” is classified as a Bestiaire by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) which houses the original Livre d’images. But Le Livre d’images de Madame Marie Hainault is also, and perhaps mainly, a martyrology and it contains a picture of Saint Nicholas given alms.

Sinterklaas & Santa Claus

  • la Saint Nicolas, le 6 décembre
  • Sinterklaas becomes Santa Claus

Born in today’s Turkey, Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343) is a prominent figure for Christians. He was the Bishop of Myra.

When I was a child growing up in a cold Quebec, my mother kept traditions alive. We celebrated la Saint-Nicolas, food and decorations.

La Saint-Nicolas is celebrated on 6 December. One eats mandarines and drinks hot chocolate. One also eats mannalas (small figures) and schnakalas (escargots). Mandarines and hot chocolate quite satisfied us.

Saint Nicolas came to North America when New York was New Amsterdam. He was called Sinterklaas (Dutch) which became Santa Claus, the English for le père Noël. (See Saint Nicholas, Wikipedia)

Pictures of St Nicolas

  • please follow this link and to see more pictures of Saint Nicholas



Saint Nicolas et les trois enfants tués par le charcutier. Psautier cistercien. XIIIe

« La Légende de Saint Nicolas »

Associated with Saint Nicholas is the legend of Saint Nicholas, the story of three children cut into pieces by a butcher (le charcutier), but resurrected seven years later by Saint Nicolas. It appears the legend originates in Alsace-Lorraine. Benjamin Britten composed a cantata entitled Saint Nicholas.


Ils étaient trois petits enfants     There we three little children
Qui s’en allaient glaner aux champs.     Who were gathering food [gleaning] in the fields.

1. Tant sont allés, tant sont venus     They so went here, they so went there
Que vers le soir se sont perdus.     That come evening, they were lost.
S’en sont allés chez un boucher :     So they went to a butcher:
Boucher, voudrais-tu nous loger ?    Butcher, would you give us lodging? [1]

2. Ils n’étaient pas sitôt entrés     But no sooner did they enter
Que le boucher les a tués,     Then the butcher killed them,
Les a coupés en p’tits morceaux       Cut them up into tiny pieces
Mis au saloir comme un pourceau.     Put them in his salting box, like pork. 

3. Saint Nicolas au bout d’sept ans     Seven years had passed when Saint Nicholas 
Vint à passer auprès du champ,     Happened to go near that field,
Alla frapper chez le boucher :     He went and knocned at the butcher’s:
Boucher, voudrais-tu me loger ?     Butcher, would you give me lodging?

4. Entrez, entrez, Saint Nicolas,     Come in, come in, Saint Nicholas,
Y’a de la place, n’en manque pas.   There’s room, there’s no want of it.
Il n’était pas sitôt entré,    No sooner did he enter,
Qu’il a demandé à souper.    Then he asked for supper

5.  Voulez-vous un morceau d’gâteau ?     Do you want a piece of cake?
Je n’en veux pas, il n’est point beau.    I don’t want any, it isn’t good.
Voulez-vous un morceau de veau ?   Do you want a piece of veal?
Je n’en veux pas, il n’est point beau !    I don’t want any, it doesn’t look nice!

6. Du p’tit salé je veux avoir,    I want something from the saloir,
Qu’il y a sept ans qu’est au saloir.    That has been there for seven years.
Quand le boucher entendit cela,    When the butcher heard that,
Hors de sa porte il s’enfuya.    Out of his door he fled.

7. Petits enfants qui dormez là,    Little children who sleep there,
Je suis le grand saint Nicolas.    I am the great Saint Nicholas.
Sur le saloir posa trois doigts,    On the saltoir he put three fingers,
Les p’tits soldats n’entendaient pas.    The little sodiers couldn’t hear. 

8. Le premier dit: « J’ai bien dormi ! »    The first [child] said: “I slept well!’
Le second dit: « Et moi aussi ! »     The second said: “Me too!”
Et le troisième, le plus petitt :    And the third answered:
« Je croyais être en paradis ! »   “I thought I was in paradise!”

(Except for the last stanza, I omitted quotation marks.)

« Ils étaient trois petits enfants. » is believed to date back to the 16th century but the legend is older. There are several versions of the song. Mine is based on the recording and it is translated accordingly.

One version is by Gérard de Nerval, a celebrated 19th-century French poet, essayist and translator. Nerval is a tragic figure. He suffered two mental breakdowns and committed suicide.

[1] I found a version of La Légende de Saint Nicolas [click], with a translation and a recording. It contains familiar lines: Saint Nicolas tells the butcher not to flee but to repent as Good will forgive him. The words salting-tub and salter are used. I borrowed the better: “give us/me lodging.”

In Saint Nicolas festivities (he visits schools, etc.), the butcher is called Père Fouettard [click].


l wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. 

Saint Nicolas, Livre d’images de Marie Hainault by Maître Henri. XIIIe

© Micheline Walker
25 December 2016