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Since the Middle Ages in Alsace, as in the rest of the Rhine basin, children have looked forward to the visit of the Nikläus (Saint Nicholas) on 6 December. The Bishop of Myre in Asia Minor in the 4th century is considered to be the patron saint of children and his veneration has been documented since the 11th century.
Saint Nicholas is a much-loved figure in Lorraine, the Rhine Valley, northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Even today, it is customary for children to leave their shoes outside the door, along with a few sweets for the bishop and his donkey. The next morning, the shoes are overflowing with chocolates, mandarins and Mannele.
Mannele are brioche figures, reminding us of the three children that the saint is said to have saved from the infamous butcher's salt cellar.