Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tomorrow Is Saint Nicholas Day

One of my fondest memories from childhood is “Nikolaustag” (Saint Nicholas Day). And why is that? Well, there is the custom to put a shoe into the window on the evening before (December 5). We always did that and went to bed that evening full of expectations to find that shoe filled with candy next morning. I remember that I had developed a typ of business idea (yeah- always on the prowl) that if I put several shoes in several windows they would all be filled next morning. I quickly learned that Nikolaus didn’t like to be messed with, for my shoes remained empty. I think that my parents viewed this as a measure of education.  Haha…
Anyway, Nikolaus has long standing traditions in Europe and why not have a look what that is all about?

The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day, on December 6 (December 19 in most Orthodox countries), is a festival for children in many countries in Europe related to surviving legends of the saint, and particularly his reputation as a bringer of gifts. The American Santa Claus, as well as the British Father Christmas, derive from these legends. "Santa Claus" is itself derived in part from the Dutch Sinterklaas.
In Northern Germany, Sankt Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a small scale. Many children put a boot called Nikolaus-Stiefel (Nikolaus boot) outside the front door or like in our house on the window sill on the night of December 5. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts and sweets overnight, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good, polite and helpful the last year. If they were not, they will have a tree branch (Rute) in their boots instead. Nicholas is often portrayed in Bavarian folklore as being accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht who inquires of the children if they have been saying their prayers, and if not, he shakes his bag of ashes at them, or beats them with a stick. (Oh-oh..let’s call child services) Sometimes a Nikolaus impersonator also visits the children at school or in their homes and asks them if they have been good (sometimes ostensibly checking his golden book for their record), handing out presents on the basis of their behavior. This has become more lenient in recent decades, and this task is often taken over by the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas). In more catholic regions, Nikolaus is dressed very much like a bishop and rides on a horse, welcomed at public places by a large crowd. He carries a long beard.
So if you were in Germany now on the 5th to the 6th all the children will be talking about having there shoes outside there bedroom all ready.

Now folks, I think I will grab my big boots and put them on the window sill tonight. Maybe, just maybe Saint Nicholas will be around this coming night. After all I have been (trying) to be a good boy all year. So there should be reasonable hope for some good Christmas candy tomorrow morning.

How about you? Have you been a good boy or have you been naughty?


  1. That was always the day when I got new winter "pantoffel" (slippers, house shoes). They were filled with cookies and chocolate! Oh, I like these memories :))

  2. St Nicholas Day is my birthday... and we always put up our "little" Christmas tree on this day. (The big, "REAL" one went up a week or 2 later).... I always felt special because me and Ol'St Nick had the same day ;-)

  3. Oh man, with the kids both out of the house these days, we both forgot about December sixth.
    With them it was a small box (shoe box, I suppose?) that they'd set outside their bedroom door.
    Of course, since there are those Slovenian roots to consider, it was always called Mikuláš, or Miklaus. Kind of sounds like Nicholas, yes?
    I'm a little unsure of the correct spelling, and I can't seem to find anything "on the line". I wonder if they'll remember?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. When I was little we went to the Dutch Canadian Club each year on the 5th or 6th (depending on which one fell on the weekend) and Sinterklaas would come out in the dutch shoe and his Zwarte Piet (black peter) would follow. If we were good we didn't get taken away in the gunny sack with black peter. Ugh. Once I did. There's therapy for that right?


We like to hear from you. You can add your comment here: