Sankt Nikolaus (the German Santa Claus) comes on the 6th of December
That is right! The German version of the Santa Claus does not bring his presents on Christmas Eve or another of the Christmas holidays, but in the night from the 5th to the 6th of December. The German children clean their biggest boot the night before and put it in front of their door. Than, in the night, the Sankt Nikolaus visits every house and puts some chocolate, a tangerine, some nuts and a small present into the boots of the good children. Supposedly, he sticks the bad children into his big sack and takes them away.
The scary side of Saint Nikolaus of the German Christmas holidays
So, the German Sankt Nikolaus actually is a little terrifying. When I was little, my parents would take me to a big Sankt Nikolaus event. Then the Sankt Nikolaus would come on to the stage with his big sack and his book. In this infamous book, all the bad deeds of all the children are written. Next, he would call the children by their name, and we had to come on to the stage and stand before him. He would then remind us of all the bad deed we has done this last year. He knew everything. It was very very scary. But finally, he also would tell us some good things we had done. We had to promise to behave better in the future, then we would get our present from him. Relieved, we would return to our parents. He is quite different from the Santa Claus of in Japan!
Saint Nicolas – the origin of Santa Claus
The Santa Claus that today brings the presents during the Christmas Holidays is originally from Demre in Turkey. Like many famous Saints (holy people of the Christian church), Saint Nicholas was a bishop in the fourth century, in the early years of Christianity. He is famous for helping poor people in secret, so he was chosen to bring the presents. The story tells that he did not want to become bishop of Myra, so he hid between geese. These geese where so noisy that the people found him soon. Red was the color of kings and bishops, so that is one explanation for his red hat and clothes. In older pictures, he often wear a brown cloak, not a red one.
The three days of Christmas Holidays in Germany
Germans celebrate Christmas for three days from the 24th to the 26th of December: Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend), first Christmas Day (Erster Weihnachtsfeiertag) and second Christmas Day (Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag). Often, the mother starts to prepare the Christmas dinner in the morning. In the afternoon, our father would lock the door to the living room and start to decorate the Christmas Tree and put the presents under the tree. German children are normally not allowed to see the tree before the evening, because the impression of the fully light room is breathtaking. Than the parents would opened the door! We would sing Christmas songs and read Christmas poems before opening the presents and eating the Christmas dinner.
Traditional dishes at the German Christmas Holidays
Actually, there is not one special Christmas dish in Germany. Every family has their own special dish they like to eat at Christmas Eve and at the Christmas days. But there are some dishes that are common and famous Christmas dishes. For example, Germans like to eat goose, deer or carp for Christmas. Both, deer and goose are raised at some places for the Christmas season. But there is one very popular Christmas dish that I would like to introduce here: a simple potato salad with “Bockwurst”, a simple sausage that just needs to be boiled for 5 Minutes before eating. I like this dish because the mother can cook it in just 30 minutes, so she can enjoy the Christmas Holidays, too! It is a very thoughtful dish.
How about Santa Claus at Christmas Eve?
The German Sankt Nikolaus brings a present on the 6th of December, so who brings the presents for the German Christmas? Traditionally, it was the “Christkind” a kind of fairy version of the Christ as a child. But in the 20th century, a kind of Santa Claus was starting to bring the presents at Christmas in Germany, too. His name is “Weihnachtsmann” (Christmas man). He also wears all red, has a long white beard and a big sack with presents. In recent years, some families find a Santa Claus to actually come to their home in the Christmas holidays. That makes the children very happy.
Are the Christmas Holidays a good time to travel to Germany?
To tell the truth, I would not recommend anyone to come to Germany during the three Christmas Holidays. In certain ways, they are similar to the Japanese New Year Holiday. Like in Japan before, all shops close during these three days. Also, many museums, amusement parks and even restaurants close. The famous Christmas markets normally close on the 23rd of December, too. The city centers are empty because everybody is at home with their families. I believe that the Christmas days are very boring for tourists. If you want to experience the Christmas atmosphere as a tourist, you’d better come in the Advent time before the holidays.
The Biblical Magi, official end of the Christmas season
Even though after the Christmas Holidays the season is pretty much ended, the official end in catholic parts is the 6th of January, the day of the Biblical Magi (東方の三博士). The bigger children dress up as the Biblical Magi and visit every house in the community. They sing special songs, collect donation for poor children a write a blessing over the entrance door for the new year. It is an important event organized by the church. Also, families will take down the Christmas decoration until that day.