Gauss-Advent Calendar: St. Nicholas’ Day
by Hui Lin Kong
December 6th, the favorite holiday of all children is a gift-giving day by Saint Nicholas. In countries like the United States of America, St. Nicholas’ Day, also known as The Feast of St. Nicholas and Christmas Eve are usually celebrated synonymously with each other. However, in Germany, St. Nicholas operates earlier leaving presents for good kids and admonishments for naughty kids.
Who is Saint Nicholas? He was actually a real man, said to be the bishop of Myra (now the Anatolia region of modern Turkey) who was born into a wealthy family and died on December 6th, 343. He is known for selling all his possessions and giving his money away to the poor and poverty. He went from house to house, bringing small gifts to the children. As this benevolent man died on 6th December, this day’s purpose is to remember him.
In a lot of European countries like Germany, St Nicholas is said to be accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, his “servant”. Ruprecht was usually ragged looking, devil-like and rumored to carry around a big sack on his back (Rute) to scare the naughty children by bringing them away for their mishaps at home. St. Nicholas also appears in the company of St. Peter and an angel, the Christchild (Christkindl).
In Germany, St. Nicholas dressing in white robes and carrying a book, to check on the kids’ behaviors in which are written down all the malignities of the children, and his partners visit houses on December 5th as the evening evades. They will knock on doors and inquire about the behavior of the children. The children would be tested by reciting poems, citing a verse, singing or showing any skills that they have. Kids who did well will be gifted while bad kids could be carried away in the sack or receive a twig. To prepare themselves, the children would clean up the room, tidy themselves, polish their dirty boots and put the shoes in front of the doors, hoping they will be filled with goodies and presents.
Differences in other countries
In Germany, St. Nicholas is one of the main characters in the Christmas celebrations. In many villages it is common to host a St. Nicholas Day parade or having a mass at the churches.
In Austria and Bavaria, the Krampus is always the center of attention. The Krampus run will take place around December 5th or 6th every year when everyone dress as a Krampus.
In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas is called Sinterklaas and appears together with Schwarzer Peter (Black Peter). In Luxembourg, Klees’chen would be the one who brings the gifts and will be welcomed very officially. In some places he will even come by boat and is then welcomed by the mayor.
Many children would like to send their wishes directly to St. Nicholas. In Saarland there is one special Post Office, which is run by volunteers from December 5 to Christmas Eve (December 24) who collects the wishes from the children and answers all the letters personally.
St. Nicholas was also a very important saint in Russia. However, it is said to be Djed Moros, a man from a fairy tale who is very similar to Saint Nicholas, who brings the gifts. The children will call upon for Father Frost for three times in front of the Christmas Tree in order to be given a present from him.
Reminder : Sunday, 6th December 2020 is also the second Advent! Don’t forget to light the second candle and enjoy celebrating with your loved ones.