GERMANY | Nikolaus or Santa Claus?
Fom Valentina Azzoni, Managing Director of germanyinsight
Every 6 December, children in Germany celebrate Nikolaus. But why does the Santa look-alike come so early and why do all the children place their shoes outside their front doors the evening before? This local has the lowdown.
Though they have similar outfits, Nikolaus is not to be confused with Santa Claus, who Germans call the Weihnachtsmann, or Father Christmas.
Each year on 6 December, Germans remember the death of Nicholas of Myra, known as Nicholas the Wonderworker who died on that day in 346. He was a Greek bishop known for miracles and leaving secret gifts, such as coins, in people’s shoes overnight, and is now the patron saint of little children, sailors, merchants and students.
On 5 December children polish their boots, to show they’ve been good and place just one outside their door (so they don’t appear too greedy), and according to the legend, Nikolaus comes in the middle of the night on a donkey and leaves little treats – like coins, chocolate, oranges and toys - for good children.
For naughty children, sometimes Nikolaus only leaves a stick in the boot, ostensibly for spankings, to show that the child doesn’t deserve a treat. Or if they have been really naughty and have very strict parents a man disguised as Nikolaus will visit the family or the child’s school, with his sinister-looking alter ego Knecht Ruprecht to question the children about their behaviour or threaten to put them in his sack and take them away!
Hopefully after that, any naughty children will be on the nice list by the time the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas), visits on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
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