Franche-Comté - Aunt Airie, an inspiration for Santa Claus
In Montbéliard, many centuries ago there was a fairy named Airie who lived in a cave in the Franche-Comté. She warmed the hearts of cold visitors with her stories of marvels and miracles.
Some think that she was the reincarnation of the Comtesse Henriette who was known for her generosity during the rule of the Wurtembergs. It is said that Aunt Airie lived with her sister Zael and their druid father, from whom she got her miraculous powers. When it snows, its called the lint of Aunt Aire’s blouse.
Since the 15th century, year after year, the legend of Aunt Airie has carried through the generations and has never left the hearts of the people of Montbéliard. Aunt Airie, always accompanied by her donkey Marion, is happy to listen to the dreams of good children. On Christmas night she brings little wrapped presents to those who deserve them and a boot full of switches to those who are bad.
The Christmas lights of Montbéliard celebrates the legend of Aunt Airie. Every year she walks in her traditional costume along the decorated streets of the Cité des Princes. In an alleyway or in her little house, the children listen to her wise advice before receiving little wrapped candies.
Christmas is the time when the people of Montbéliard share with visitors the local legend that is so much part of their past. Two hundred years before Santa Claus, Aunt Airie was the twinkle in the eyes of the children of Montbéliard.