Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy St. Nikolas Day!

St. Nicholas Day...
Today, December 6, is known throughout Germany and many European countries as St. Nicholas Day.  Children in those countries put their shoes on the front step in hopes that the kindly gentleman will fill them full of treats.  Traditional gifts include chocolate, fruit, small toys and gold coins...chocolate coins most likely.  The legends about St. Nicholas begin with the story of a poor man with three marriageable daughters.  He could not afford to provide them with a dowry...in those days girls could not get married without a cash dowry.


Wooden shoes filled with treats...
Passing by the home of the poor girls one winter's evening, Nicholas was moved to pity by their penniless state and wanted to help them.  Wishing to remain anonymous, he secretly tossed a bag of golden coins into the window of the girls' room.  The story claims that the coins fell into some stockings hanging out to dry by the fire.  This is how the tradition began of filling stockings with gifts.  Next year on the eve of St. Nicholas day, it might be fun to have your children put their little shoes on the front porch.  Wouldn't they love to find a little bag of gold chocolate coins in their shoe when they get up the next morning?  Be sure to tell them to leave a carrot out for St. Nicholas' white horse.

A fun new tradition!

Our family tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas (Nikolas) Day only lasted a few years...but it was fun while it lasted.  We wouldn't wait until morning...St. Nicholas came just before bedtime in our little corner of Germany.  Children would get ready for bed and put their shoes on the porch.  Then there was a special program on television for them to watch while one of the parents filled their shoes.  Bedtime television featured a character call the Sandmännchen or "little sandman."  I suppose the purpose was to make children sleepy.  They might show a cartoon, then the Sandmännchen would tell a bedtime story.   When the Sandmännchen said "Gute Nacht...und schlaf recht schon" it was time to see if St. Nikolas had left candy or a switch in their shoes.  Nikolas had a helper named Knecht Ruprecht, a dark and sinister character who just might put naughty children into the big sack on his back.  There are many legends and traditions about the Knecht Ruprecht character...in some he later became "Der Weihnachtsmann," the German version of Santa Claus.

Der Weihnachtsmann shopping at the Christmas Market.
He could also be wearing blue or brown.

Christmas Eve in the home of our German friends, the Dahnkens, was the time when the Christ Child...or Christkindl...decorated the tree and left presents.  They didn't use Christmas stockings, but the Christkindl left plates full of cookies and candy.  In other homes, gifts were left by Der Weihnachtsmann. 

I loved learning the customs and traditions of Germany.  Thank you for letting me share the story of St. Nicholas Day.

Frohliche Weihnachten!




9 comments:

GARAGE SALE GAL said...

I have thought about doing that..leaving the shoes out to be filled...
Thanks for sharing that tradition.
Hope you are enjoying the Christmas season!
Warmly,
deb

chris mckinley said...

St. Nikolas is a great day to celebrate! When I taught school the kids loved leaving their shoes outside the classroom door!

chris

ImagiMeri said...

Ah, you are feeding my memories of Germany at Christmas time.....so sweet.

Hugs,
Meri

Erica of Golden Egg Vintage said...

Very neat Shirley! I would have loved to find my shoes filled with little treats when I was a kid!
Erica :)....I wouldn't mind now either. lol

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

How wonderful to hear traditions you kept and what they meant. I didn't keep Christmas for most of my life so I love learning more about it from others. Sweet hugs!

vintage grey said...

What a neat tradition and history!! My husband and I were just talking about Germany tonight! So fun! xo Heather

My Vintage Mending said...

Growing up we had boots that Santa left stuff in. Instead of stockings...smiles..Renee

DearHelenHartman said...

Just now getting out and about in the blog world so too late for the special day but loved being reminded of it!

Dorothy Crutchfield said...

I love to hear how others celebrate holidays! My grandmother used to have an old pair of wooden shoes out in her wash house. Don't know where they came from or what happened to them..
Dorothy