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Alsatian Christmas glossary

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Alsatian Christmas glossary

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Small Christmas cakes prepared at home during Advent, often with friends or family. There are many different types of bredele, such as linzers, butterbredele, and spritz. The dough is usually cut into different shapes – such as stars, figures, hearts or trees – with pastry cutters before being baked.


Small brioche figures made by bakers on Saint Nicholas Day (6 December). They often feature raisins or chocolate drops for eyes.

Christkindel (Christ child)

The traditional Christmas gift-bringer – a young girl dressed entirely in white with a crown of lights, holding in her hand a sceptre with a star or a small bell at the top. The Christkindel first appeared in the mid-16th century, when Lutheran Protestants rejected the episcopal figure of Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicolas

Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor who lived in the 4th century. He is the patron saint of children, and well-behaved children receive gifts on his feast day (6 December). On the evening of 5 December, children place their slippers or socks by the fireplace, along with a clementine for Saint Nicholas, and a sheaf of hay, a lump of sugar or a carrot for his donkey, the peckeresel. He is often accompanied on his rounds by Hans Trapp, or Père Fouettard – a repressive and scary character.

Hans Trapp

Dressed in a heavy woollen robe as dark as his beard, he carries chains, which he uses to threaten children. He is always found alongside Saint Nicholas. The character is based on the figure of Hans von Trotha – a German knight with a sinister reputation who lived in the late 15th century at Berwarstein Castle in the Palatinate, not far from Wissembourg. He was known for his reign of terror over the locals.

Advent wreath

The Advent wreath first appeared among Protestant families in the first half of the 20th century. It consists of branches or twigs assembled into a circle, decorated and topped with four red candles. The wreath is placed at the centre of the table, and a candle is lit on each Sunday of Advent