Sunday, December 6, 2009

365 Project - Day 127


Across the German-speaking region of Europe there are many kinds of Santa Clauses with many different names. Despite their many names, they are all basically the same mythic character. But few of them have anything to do with the real Saint Nicholas (Sankt Nikolaus or der heilige Nikolaus), who was probably born around A.D. 245 in the port city of Patara in what we now call Turkey. Very little solid historical evidence exists for the man who later became the Bishop of Myra and the patron saint of children, sailors, students, teachers, and merchants. He is credited with several miracles and his feast day is Dec. 6, which is the main reason he is connected with Christmas. In Austria, parts of Germany, and Switzerland, der heilige Nikolaus (or Pelznickel) brings his gifts for children on Nikolaustag, Dec. 6, not Dec. 25. Nowadays, St. Nicholas Day (der Nikolaustag) on Dec. 6 is a preliminary round for Christmas.
Although Austria is mostly Catholic, Germany is almost evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics (along with some minority religions). So in Germany there are both Catholic (katholisch) and Protestant (evangelisch) Christmas customs. When Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, came along, he wanted to get rid of the Catholic elements of Christmas. To replace Sankt Nikolaus (Protestants don't have saints!), Luther introduced das Christkindl (an angel-like Christ Child) to bring Christmas gifts and reduce the importance of Saint Nicholas. Later this Christkindl figure would evolve into der Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) in Protestant regions and even cross the Atlantic to mutate into the English term “Kris Kringle.”

Nikolaustag procedures

The 6th of December is St. Nikolaus` Day in Germany. Although this is not a public holiday, it is taken rather serious, and people make an effort to celebrate. It starts the night before, when kids shine their boots and put them in front of their bedroom doors. According to folklore, St. Nikolaus will appear overnight and put little gifts into their boots if they have been `good` throughout the year. `Bad` kids will only receive a bunch of twigs (a birch). Traditional St. Nikolaus gifts include apples, oranges, Christmas cookies, specially wrapped candy, and small toys. There is also an alternative to shoe shining: red "Nikolausstiefel" (St. Nikolaus` boots) made out of plastic, which are sold in all major German grocery stores. They are available empty, or filled with candy. St. Nikolaus is said to resemble Santa Claus, hence the red and fur-trimmed boots (usually cotton). It is customary for co-workers to put candy on each other`s desks early in the morning of December 6th. Some companies choose this date to hold their annual Christmas party. St. Nikolaus, however, does not make a personal appearance on this day, and kids have to wait until Christmas Eve to see `a real Santa`.


1 comment:

  1. OMG a kinder egg!!!!!!! you cant find them ANYWHERE in the states and i loooove them!!


It's always so nice to receive feedback! Thank you!