Friday, December 5, 2008

Tonights big event, here is the lowdown!

Celebrating St. Nikolaus in Germany

Each December 6, German children celebrate Nikolaus. Why does the Santa look-alike come so early and why do all the children place their shoes outside their front doors on the evening before?
Is Nikolaus the same as Santa Claus?
Though they have similar outfits, Nikolaus is not to be confused with Santa Claus, who Germans call the Weihnachtsmann, or Father Christmas. They are two different people. In fact, many religious families try to focus more on Nikolaus earlier in December to insure that Christmas is actually about Jesus’ birth, and not presents from an Americanised and commercialised Santa.
Who is Nikolaus, then?
Each year on December 6, Germans remember the death of Nicholas of Myra (now the Anatolia region of modern Turkey), who died on that day in 346. He was a Greek Christian bishop known for miracles and giving gifts secretly, and is now the patron saint of little children, sailors, merchants and students. Known as Nicholas the Wonderworker for his miracles, he is also identified with Santa Claus. Beliefs and traditions about Nikolaus were probably combined with German mythology, particularly regarding stories about the bearded pagan god Odin, who also had a beard and a bag to capture naughty children.
Why do children set their shoes out on the night of December 5th?
Doesn’t he have any?Of course Nikolaus has shoes. The custom began because the historical St. Nicholas had a reputation for leaving secret gifts, such as coins, in people’s shoes overnight. Kids traditionally put out their boots, though shoes or stockings will suffice for those without boots.
What does his outfit look like?
He is usually pictured with a long white beard, a bishop's mitre and a red cloak, sometimes with a sack over his shoulder and a rod in his hand.
Does Nikolaus come again on Christmas Eve then?
No. Santa Claus, or the Weihnachtsmann, usually comes to German homes – often in person – on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

I know this is not only a German tradition, many people I know celebrate St. Nikolaus. This is the first time we have ever celebrated. Being in Germany now we are trying to embrace all German customs. I can hardly wait for Katelyn to check her boots tomorrow morning...heck I've been pretty good this year I might put out mine too! Wait it's only for kids......! Bummer Happy St. Nikolaus Day to all!


kLw said...

O La La...I'm excited now! hehe :P

t.t. Millers said...

I have heard of this custom. We had two different german exchange students stay with us a few years ago. They are from Krefeld. Over the years they have kept in touch and this was one of the things they told me about.

Ina J Offret said...

Are the Saints marching in?

A Day That Is Dessert said...

Thanks for sharing about this custom - Happy St. Nikolaus day to you!