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Peeking into Santa's World en français

Olivia Snaije By Olivia Snaije Published on November 14, 2016

Everyone in our household knows that Christmas is around the corner when Grégoire Solotareff’s Dictionnaire du Père Noël (translated into English by Chronicle Books as The Secret Life of Santa Claus) appears on the coffee table. Irreverent, zany, hilarious, tender, and magical, Solotareff transports us into a parallel universe that is Santa’s. In the form of an alphabetical dictionary—hence the title “dictionary” in French—Solotareff’s Santa skis, plays with his elves, is teased by them, has trouble getting up in the morning unless someone brings him hot chocolate, and ultimately, reflects on his choice of career. 

Without further ado, in improvised translation, here are a few choice pages from Solotareff’s book:

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Beaucoup (very much): It is said that Santa Claus loves his elves very much and that they also love him very much, and that's the truth. 

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Bébé (baby) : Santa Claus doesn’t have children and when faced with a crying baby he really wouldn't know what to do. 

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Classe (class room): Santa Claus is responsible for educating his elves. Sometimes he loses his patience and threatens to call the headmaster. But the elves know that he doesn’t really mean it because he is the headmaster. 

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Cauchemar (nightmare): Santa Claus has nightmares just like everyone else.

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Aimer (to love): Santa Claus loves all animals, even the ugliest ones. In fact, he probably loves them more than the others. 

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Gêner (to be hindered by): When Santa Claus plays the violin his nose gets in the way. It makes him feel sad because he would have liked to have been a violinist. 

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Impatience: Santa Claus impatiently waits for the first snowflakes because he likes Christmas just as much as children do. 

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Inquiet (worried, or nervous): When Santa Claus travels to Africa he gets around on an ostrich. This makes him, as well as the ostrich, very nervous. 

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Prévoir (to plan ahead): Santa Claus plans ahead for everything. He even has special boots for when he travels to warm countries. 

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Traîneau (sleigh): Sometimes Santa Claus gets out his fancy sleigh. But then he finds it a little too chic, so he puts it back again and gets out his ordinary sleigh.

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Vieux (old): Santa Claus’ old reindeer love him so much that they would all like to be like him. 


Olivia is a Paris-based journalist and editor.