CAHOKIA – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is offering a special holiday treat on Saturday, Dec. 3, with a chance to tour the beautiful Jarrot Mansion in Cahokia and learn the story of St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas – or Père Noël, as he was known to the French – will visit the Jarrot Mansion State Historic Site in Cahokia to greet families and share treats with children amid candlelight and traditional holiday decorations.
The Jarrot Mansion was built around 1810 by merchant Nicholas Jarrot, one of many French settlers who prospered in early Illinois. His home is one of the oldest brick buildings in Illinois. It is usually open by appointment only, but the site will be open for free tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 3. St. Nicolas is scheduled to arrive at the house at 11 a.m. and will stay until 2 p.m.
Admission is free. Tours of the Jarrot Mansion and the Holy Family Log Church will be ongoing during the event. Visitors are encouraged to donate a nonperishable food item for families in need. All donations will be distributed to Cahokia food pantries.
The traditional St. Nicholas was a generous bishop in fourth century Turkey who felt sorry for the poor, hungry and those who didn't have enough clothing to keep warm. This story was transformed into the tale of Santa Claus, called Father Christmas in England and Père Noël in France.
The French tradition is for children to leave shoes filled with straw and carrots for Père Noël's horse on Dec. 3, St. Nicholas Eve. Père Noël would visit and leave coins, toys and cookies in the shoes.
The Jarrot Mansion State Historic Site is located at 124 E. First St. in Cahokia. For more information, call the Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site at 618-332-1782.
The event is co-sponsored by the Jarrot Mansion Project Inc., Cahokia Connections Church Alliance, Historic St. Louis and the Village of Cahokia. Joyeux Noël!