“Lasst uns froh und munter sein, und uns recht von Herzen freun (…) bald ist Nikolaus Abend da!”
“Let us be happy and cheerful, and rejoice from our heart (…) Nicholas Eve is almost here!” This song is known by almost everyone in Germany, but have you ever thought about who Saint Nicholaus really was?
On the 6th of December we celebrate Saint Nicholas, or the feast of St. Nicholaus, who was a Greek bishop that lived in the fourth century in Asia Minor. Known as St. Nicholaus or Bishop of Myra, now Demre, on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. Only a few fragments of his life have been preserved, most of which refer to his the selfless deeds he performed throughout his life. Nicholaus fed the hungry and many children benefited from his generosity and compassion, so he is also referred to as the protector of children.
After his death on December 6, he was made a saint. This date became the day that St. Nicholaus continues to visit children, bringing the good ones treats.
In Germany, children clean their shoes on the eve of December 6th and place them outside of their bedroom door. When they get up the next morning, Nicholas has filled the shoes, of good girls and boys, with fruit, nuts and cookies. Over time this has changed a bit and St. Nicholas brings more chocolate and small toys.
In many religious communities, St. Nicholaus arrives at church with his helper Knecht Ruprecht who gives naught children lumps of coal, stones or a switch instead of goodies. Many of the children participate in the celebration by putting on small plays, singing songs and reciting poems.
These legends have been passed down through many generations and are meant to teach children how to live generous lives. Do you remember waking up as a child on the morning of December 6th to find a surprise awaiting you in your shoe? Share your most memorable St. Nicholaus by leaving a comment.
Photo by tin.G via Flickr