Today Is Nikolaus Day! Have You Been Good?
December 6, 2017 11:28am CST
For the little ones, Christmas season starts on 1st December when they open the first door of their Advent Calendar (advent, from Latin = arrival, coming). They usually have some space between two sheets of cardboard (the upper one depicts a Christmas or winter scene) so that some chocolate can be put behind the doors. More modern versions are strings hanging on the walls or anything which might hold 24 little parcels. The four Sundays before Christmas are the so-called Advent Sundays. Whereas the Advent Calendar is for children, nearly every household has an Advent Wreath made of fir twigs with four, usually red, candles for the four Sundays. Although it isn’t forbidden to lighten them all at once, people don’t, they light first one candle, the next Sunday two and so on. December 6th is Nikolaus Day. I don’t know how Nikolaus or Father Christmas travel to Germany, certainly not by reindeer sledge, but how then? How the presents reach the child is unknown and not seen as relevant. In any case, the chimney isn’t used, neither by Nikolaus nor later by Father Christmas. The figure of Nikolaus goes back to a legendary bishop in Asia Minor who lived from around 280 to around 350, the exact dates are unknown. His first good deed was to throw three bags of gold through the window of a pauper who was so desperate that he was considering prostitution for his three daughters. With that dowry, however, he was able to marry them off to honourable men. Later the bishop performed some miracles, all in the field of charity. The Nikolaus German children love is also known in other European countries. The transformation of the historical into a mythical figure occurred in the 13th century in France. Sometimes Nikolaus has got too much to carry so that he’s accompanied by a servant with the name of Rupprecht. Whereas Father Christmas is quite an elusive guy, it’s not difficult to get into personal contact with Nikolaus. The town where I live has a Police Academy. Together with the local newspaper they organise a Rent-a-Nikolaus-service in December. The parents call it and order a young policeman who dresses up as Nikolaus (very much like Father Christmas). When he rings the bell, they go out, give him about 10 pounds (the money goes to a local Charity project), the presents (small ones, Nikolaus Day is not a second Christmas) and a list with the vices and virtues of the children, the highpoint of the performance! First Nikolaus introduces himself with a poem, then he reads from his list, praising or scolding the children, using his switch if necessary (no modern pedagogics here!) depending on what he finds on the list, but always ending on a positive note and handing over the presents after listening to poems and songs the little ones have prepared for him. Very rarely does it happen that a child is really frightened and doesn’t reappear from under the sofa while he’s present! --- Photo: Dirk Vorderstraße (Wikimedia)
18 people like this
• United States
I have never had a visit from Nikolaus, but how wonderful it would be to have him ring the doorbell and go through that very important performance just for children! I am sure I would not have been frightened of St. Nikolaus since our Santa Clause frightened some here, but not me!
I'm a Canadian of Dutch descent. Sinterklaas is part of out tradition. He gives out candy and chocolate as well as fruit and nuts. Children leave hay and carrots for his white horse. He is accompanied by Zwarte Piet, who leaves coal or puts naughty children In His sack.
• United States
I was first introduced to the Advent Calendar in 1975 while living in Germany. Sadly this is the first holiday season since then that I do not have one. My parents carried the tradition on with giving them out to their children and grandchildren every year. This year they didn't remember the calendars. I'm not even sure where to find them
• United States
It is interesting to read the tradition and even more interesting as I contemplate how things change from one tradition in a culture to another here in America. For instance, no one paid attention to how he arrived in Germany, but we make up the reindeer sleigh to transport him to all corners of the world! Very interesting discussion. Thank you so much for sharing it! This is a tradition I think I would love to experience.