St. Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus Tag)

On December 5, in Germany, the children put their freshly polished pair of boots in front of their bedroom door.  This is done so that St Nikolaus and his sidekick  Knecht Ruprecht will show up and leave little gifts in those clean shiny boots. Some things that turn up are chocolates, nuts, fruits, or Germany’s famous gummy bears (Gee, I hope they are in bags!).

So, parents do not have to wake up the kids in the morning of the sixth!  But warnings to the kiddies—St. Nicholas only treats good little girls and boys. Those who were not good throughout the year, might find a piece of coal in their boots, left by Knecht Ruprecht who carries his sack of coal over his shoulder.

Sankt Nikolaus does not drive a sleigh nor does he come down the chimney. But he does dress like America’s Santa Claus. These Santa’s can move around your neighborhood and check with the kids to see if they have been good this year; however, he really doesn’t have to ask, because he already knows. He carries with him records of every child’s good and bad behavior in his golden book.

The sidekick, Knecht Ruprecht is a very menacing figure who has the job of frightening children into behaving by threatening them with spankings. But on the other hand, Sankt Nikolaus is a kind gentle person. The German Nikolaus was actually a real person. He was a popular bishop who lived in Turkey in the fourth century. He became a legend because of his generous nature.

Then there is Kris Kringle, who arrived during the Reformation when the focus moved from worshipping saints. The gift-giving tradition was moved to December 24th. So the tradition of giving gifts was now thinking that the gifts are brought by the Christ Child (Christkind). This name evolved into Kris Kringle from Christ child. And gifts are now opened on Christmas Eve after their traditional family meal and singing Christmas carols—similar to the United States.