St. Nicholas evening with children

Who was St. Nicholas, whose feast we celebrate with children on 6. December celebrate? What does he have to do with Santa Claus and Santa Claus?? Which customs and rituals entwine themselves around the Nikolausabend? And how can families of today fill him with new life? urbia gives answer.

Patron saint of children and sailors

In the middle of the Advent season we celebrate on the 6. December in this country the feast of St. Nicholas. He actually lived – in the 4th of. Century at the Turkish Mediterranean coast. During his lifetime, he made a name for himself above all as a popular, generous and compassionate bishop. A story from his saint legend tells that he saved the lives of poor children by selling all the gold from his church and giving their families the proceeds. Another story tells of how, during a famine, Bishop Nicholas had all the church granaries opened so that starving people could bake bread for free. After his death on 6. December 345 he was canonized. Even today, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and seamen in the Catholic Church. This is also the reason why a custom soon became established in today’s Europe, according to which parents would give their children gold on the night of December 6. December put candy, fruit and nuts in their boots and shoes. The fact that the gifts of "apples, nuts, chestnuts" – as it says in a traditional St. Nicholas song – became books, CDs, DVDs or toys over the centuries is due to the desire of most parents to want and buy only the best for their offspring.

"Have you been a good boy?"

St. Nicholas Day customs vary greatly from region to region. But almost everywhere two customs are known: St. Nicholas reads from a large book the misdeeds of children and reprimands them for them. In some places, he is assisted by regionally different, sinister figures such as Hans Muff, Knecht Ruprecht or Bullerklas to deter future disobedience. Many parents and kindergartens nowadays invite an honorary or "hired" Santa Claus to give such a "sermon" to the children, which, however, always ends with a nice present. Another popular custom known everywhere is filling shoes or boots with gifts. "Schiffchensetzen" was the name given to the tradition that has been practiced since the 15th century. This is a custom known in the nineteenth century, in which St. Nicholas ships are made of paper or other material, in which the saint is supposed to place his gifts. The background for this custom is probably St. Nicholas’ function as the patron saint of sailors. Even today you can find an image of St. Nicholas on many merchant ships. The Santa Claus ship was later replaced by boots, shoes or stockings, to which the gift plate was later added.

In earlier times, St. Nicholas’ Day was also the day of presents. In some countries this is still the case today. It was not until the Reformers vehemently opposed the veneration of the saints that the giving of presents was moved to Christmas Day in many places – and St. Nicholas was replaced by the Christ Child as the bearer of gifts. Moreover, in the 19. In the 19th century, the U.S. American custom of Santa Claus developed, to which we owe the image of St. Nicholas that dominates the world today.

Who is who? Santa Claus, Santa Claus and Santa Claus

But unlike St. Nicholas, Santa Claus is a pure fairy tale figure. In the USA he is called Santa Claus, in Russia Father Frost. In the fictional stories about his person he lives at the North Pole, where elves and pixies help him to make Christmas presents for the children. In the night of 24. on the 25. December it makes itself therefore with a reindeer sleigh on the way to the children all over the world. Climbing through the chimneys of houses and placing gifts in front of the fireplace or under the Christmas tree. In Germany, the fairy tale of Santa Claus was virtually unknown for a long time. It was only through Hollywood movies and advertising that the figure became native to us, because in our culture it is traditionally the Christ Child who brings the presents. No one has ever seen it, it is probably a heavenly angel or elf with wings. It is supposed to remind of the birth of the baby Jesus in the stable, but is usually depicted with a little white dress and golden, long curls – and thus rather as a girl.

Santa Claus dressed by Coca Cola

A crucial role in spreading the Santa tradition has been played by the Coca Cola brand: The company came up with the idea of using Santa Claus as an advertising figure for itself in 1931. For this, the Swedish illustrator Haddon Sundblom was to design a Christmas campaign for the caffeine soda pop. In his search for new ideas, Sundblom saw an old delivery driver with a long white beard. That provided the template for the Santa Claus image, as it is still transported today. While Santa Claus as a fairy tale character previously wore a green, sometimes a blue or sometimes a red coat, the advertising artist dressed his "Cola-Claus" in a red suit with white fur and matching boots. No wonder, the company colors of Coca-Cola are white and red. Since then, the jolly guy with the prosperity belly has been grinning down on people from so many advertising posters around the world that he has left a lasting mark on our image of Santa Claus.

Fresh ideas for St. Nicholas Eve

Santa Claus in the forest or park

Instead of putting the children’s shoes or boots in front of the apartment door on St. Nicholas Eve and stuffing gifts into them, which are usually bought in a hurry, families can spend the afternoon and evening in a different way. Since the activity requires a bit of preparation, you can share the work and errands with other families: An adult dresses up as Santa Claus and lays tracks for the children on a path in the forest or park. A little red apple here, a nut or a chocolate doughnut in gold paper there. The children stay on St. Nicholas’ trail and collect edibles or small gifts along the way. At the destination you can pin a small letter from Santa Claus with many greetings from the hurried Santa Claus who is already making children happy elsewhere.

We are looking for the superstar!

Singing carols with the family is stuffy! How about a silly afternoon where every child and adult sings a song, recites a poem, or tells or reads a story? Record the whole thing with a microphone on a cell phone, IPod or on the computer and burn the result on a CD. An action that is guaranteed to be fun and a gift idea to boot. Because the CD can then be given to relatives and family friends for Christmas.

Search for stars – find gifts

Cut out stars from colored or shiny clay paper and hang them in bad weather in the apartment or house in places that are clearly visible to children. A star must have a particularly eye-catching color, for example, gold, silver or glitter powder wear. If it’s nice outside you can hang the stars on bare bushes and in hedges. Now the children can go in search. Who collects the most stars, gets a little surprise. Whoever catches the shining star gets to decide what’s for dinner the next day.

Sweet homemade

Marzipan potatoes


100 g marzipan paste, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, 30 g dark cocoa, 1 saucer

That’s the way to do it:

Knead the marzipan mass, add the powdered sugar and form small balls from it. Then put the cocoa on the saucer and roll the potatoes in it until they are completely coated.

Lemon stars


star-shaped cookie cutters, 200 g butter, 400 g flour, 2 eggs, juice of half a lemon, 4 packets or bottles of lemon flavoring, 1 packet of vanilla sugar, 3 tsp. lemon juice, 1 pinch of salt, a little flour, 2 egg yolks, 2 tbsp. sweet cream, 100 g hail sugar

How to do it:

Break the butter into small pieces and put in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon. then sprinkle flour and sugar and add the eggs. Now add the lemon flavoring, the vanilla sugar and the 3 tsp of lemon juice. Then knead the whole thing – but not too long. Now wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. Then take it out and let it rest for another 15 minutes. Dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough on it with a rolling pin or other dough roller until it is about 4 mm thick. Dip the star molds in flour and cut out the stars, which are then placed on a greased baking tray. Mix the two egg yolks with the cream and spread the whole on the surface with a kitchen brush. Then sprinkle a little hail sugar on top. Bake on the baking tray at about 200 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Fine nut cookies


cookie cutters, 250 g flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 150 g sugar, 1 packet vanilla sugar, 3 drops bitter almond oil, 4 tbsp canned milk, 100 g butter, 200 g ground hazelnuts, bag of hazelnut kernels

Here’s how:

Put all the ingredients except the hazelnut kernels in a bowl and knead into a dough. Then roll out the dough thinly and cut out round cookies or other shapes from it. Put the finished cookies on a greased baking sheet and brush them with some canned milk. Now just press the hazelnut kernels in the middle and bake the whole thing at about 200 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Beautiful songs..

Niklaus, Niklaus, holy man (unknown author)

St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas, holy man,

put on your Sunday boots,

travel with it to Spain,

buy apples, nuts, chestnuts.

Bring the little children something,

let the big ones run,

they can buy themselves.

Put the mold under the table,

so that it eats hay and oats.

It does not eat hay and oats,

Sugar and cookies do not get it.

Let’s be merry and bright (Traditional)

Let’s be merry and bright

And rejoice with all our hearts!

Funny, funny, traleralera!

Soon it’s St. Nicholas Eve,

soon santa claus eve will be here!

Then I put the plate,

Niklaus certainly puts something on it.

When I sleep, I dream:

Now Santa Claus brings something for me.

When up,

I quickly run to the plate.

Niklaus is a good man,

you can not thank enough.

…and poems

Santa Claus (unknown author)

Through the fir forest

during the Christmas season

Goes a man, ancient,

whether it storms or snows.

He is a good man,

everyone can see that!

Come to our house,

On St. Nicholas’ Eve (by Otfried Porsel)

Yesterday evening, around eight,

as I lay in bed, I thought to myself:

"I’m not sleeping today,

Better pull the covers over your face

and squint cautiously through a slit."

I was already quite jittery,

so really tingling

from the long wait.

Suddenly the door opens

and in comes stealthily,

on silent soles

Put something on the plate,

shoo, shoo – and has already escaped.

Everything was dark in the room,

not a bit of glimmer,

no lamplight penetrated.

I almost look my eyes out,

he was now really, the Nikolaus?

Now I know a whole year

I don’t know if it was Santa Claus!

Nutcracking (Albert Sergel)

Holler boller, rumple bag,

Niklas carried him piggyback,

Christmas nuts yellow and brown,

wrinkly, pimply to look at.

Crack the shell, crack the kernel,

Christmas nuts I love to eat.

Come back to this house soon,

good old Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, you good man… (unknown author)

Santa Claus, you good man,

have a nice coat on.

The buttons are so brightly polished,

your white beard is well trimmed,

the boots are so shiny,

the pointed cap fine and long,

the eyebrows are so thick,

so dear and good is your face.

You came all the way from far away,

and your hands give gladly.

You know how all children are

I think I was a good child.

Otherwise you wouldn’t be here

And do not come to me.

You must surely toil,

to carry the heavy sack.

So, dear St. Nicholas,

just unpack him.

Book tips

  • Ida Bohatta: Saint Nicholas. arsEdition 2011, 20 p., from 3. ISBN 978-3-760-76906-6.

Classic picture books to look at, read aloud and give as gifts.

  • Lena Klassen: The story of St. Nicholas. Gabriel Publishing 2011, 32 p., from 4. ISBN 978-3-522-30256-2.

The life of St. Nicholas from his youth to his time as a bishop.

  • Barbara Cratzius: St. Nicholas is coming today. Butzon& Bercker 2011, 16 p., from 4. ISBN 978-3-766-61501-5.

Beautifully illustrated picture book that tells the story of St. Nicholas in short texts. With colorful handle index to quickly find the favorite passage.

  • Applause for St. Nicholas: A musical radio play about Bishop Nicholas. By Hans-Jurgen Netz. Audio CD. Lighthouse Home Entertainment 2009, 1 CD, 5 and up. ISBN 978-3-896-17201-3.

In lively scenes and songs, the life and work of Bishop Nicholas and his commitment to the poor is told in a child-friendly and exciting way.

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