~ St. Nicholas Day
December 6 is they day Germans celebrate “Nikolaustag”.
Who was the real St. Nicholas (“Nikolaus von Myra”)?
You can read this here.
What happens on Nikolaustag?
One common custom is that children put their shoes in front of their front doors (on Dec 5) and in the morning of Dec 6 they will have been filled with candy, fruit and little presents - by “Nikolaus” of course.
In some families it’s also tradition that Nikolaus actually comes to visit. Usually the children sing a song (there are plenty of Nikolaus songs) or recite a poem and Nikolaus will list their good and bad deeds; for example “You have been very nice to your grandma last year, but you have to listen to what your mother says, too.”
Where I grew up we celebrated on the evening of Dec 5, but celebrating on Dec 6 is more common.
Nikolaus also visits kindergartens, schools and churches. In these cases he often comes with a companion, “Knecht Ruprecht” who is meant to “punish” naughty children.
According to tradition, Knecht Ruprecht asks children whether they can pray. If they can, they receive apples, nuts, and gingerbread. If they cannot, he beats the children with his bag of ashes. In other (presumably more modern) versions of the story, Knecht Ruprecht gives naughty children useless, ugly gifts such as lumps of coal, sticks, and stones, while well-behaving children receive sweets from Saint Nicholas. He also can be known to give naughty children a switch (stick) in their shoes for their parents to beat them with, instead of candy, fruit and nuts, in the German tradition. (Wikipedia)
This doesn’t happen anymore as far as I know! Most of the time he doesn’t do anything or he takes the job of reading out the bad things a child has done/telling them what they should do better in the future. Nonetheless children normally have a lot of respect for him. (I was honestly super scared of this guy.)
Are Nikolaus and Santa Claus the same? No, they are not. They are only based on the same person.
What does Nikolaus look like? Nowadays, the people who dress up as Nikolaus sometimes look a lot like Santa Claus, but it’s still more common that they actually try to resemble Bishop St. Nicholas:
What does Knecht Ruprecht look like? He wears dark clothes and most importantly a “Rute” which you can see in his right hand here:
There are more traditions, but these are pretty much the basics about “Nikolaustag”. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. :)
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