Every year, on the eve of 6. The children put their boots in front of the door on St. Nicholas Day so that they can be filled by St. Nicholas during the night. But how did St. Nicholas Day actually come into being? The answers to all questions about St. Nicholas can be found here.
For many people, especially for children, St. Nicholas Day represents a special highlight in the Advent season. Happy St. Nicholas songs overnight filled plates or boots and maybe even a visit from St. Nicholas himself make the day quite fabulous. But where do these customs actually come from? And who was this St. Nicholas to whom this day is dedicated??
When is St. Nicholas Day?
St. Nicholas Day is celebrated every year on 6. December. In Germany and most other countries this is not a public holiday, but only a church commemoration day. In Luxembourg, however, St. Nicholas Day is an important day: children in preschool and elementary school have the day off from school and the Kleeschen (St. Nicholas) brings presents, in some places even more than on Christmas itself.
Why do we celebrate Nicholas?
We celebrate St. Nicholas Day in memory of St. Nicholas of Myra. Supposedly, he was born on a 6. December to have died. St. Nicholas is one of the best known and most popular saints of the Catholic Church. In Russia and other Orthodox churches, St. Nicholas is still considered to be particularly important today. He is revered there as an "angel on earth" or "savior of the world". In the western churches, the image of the benevolent bishop has become especially popular.
Who was Nicholas of Myra?
There are only a few historically confirmed facts about the life of St. Nicholas of Myra. To some extent, it does not seem clear whether it is a single person or whether the narratives mix the life stories of two people: Bishop Nicholas of Myra, who in the 4. He lived in the 6th century, and Abbot Nicholas of Sion (6th century). century). Both lived on the coast of Lycia in present-day Turkey.
St. Nicholas of Myra was sainted between 270 and 286 n. Chr. Born in Patara, an ancient city located about 100 kilometers southwest of present-day Antalya. At that time, Greek was still spoken in the region. According to tradition, Nicholas was ordained priest at the age of 19 and became abbot in the monastery of Sion near Myra. According to the stories, he was captured in 310 during the persecution of Christians, after which he distributed his great inheritance among the poor.
Nicholas became so popular because of the numerous legends surrounding his person, which paint the picture of a generous and popular churchman. For example, he is said to have once appeared to shipmen who were in distress at sea. He appeared as a man with supernatural powers and steered the ship, set the sails and let the sails fly even the storm subsided. The sailors recognized Nicholas when they later offered a prayer of thanksgiving in the church of Myra. Therefore, St. Nicholas is today also considered the patron saint of seafarers.
How did St. Nicholas Day, as we know it today, come into being??
Already in 6. In the sixteenth century, St. Nicholas was venerated in the Orthodox Church. This is evidenced, for example, by the construction of a church around 550, which was dedicated to the former bishop.
In the Middle Ages it became a tradition to give presents to children and the poor on 6. December – in the style of St. Nicholas, who is also said to have been particularly kind to children. But with the Reformation by Martin Luther around 1535, the tradition changed, especially for Protestants. From then on, the veneration of saints was rejected and the giving of presents on St. Nicholas Eve was cancelled. Instead, the "Holy Christian" or. the Christ Child at Christmas bring gifts. This custom continued at the beginning of the 20th century. At the beginning of the twentieth century also with the Catholics by. Nowadays, there is often a little something for the children on St. Nicholas’ Day, but there is no big present.
St. Nicholas, who once brought presents in Europe, later gave rise to the American Santa Claus. He usually appears in a red and white suit with a cap. Also in this country St. Nicholas is often depicted in this way. Sometimes St. Nicholas also visits Christmas markets, schools, kindergartens or other places in this disguise in order to distribute small gifts to children. In some places, however, St. Nicholas is also classically dressed as a bishop.
The custom of placing a plate or boot in front of the door on the eve of St. Nicholas or hanging stockings on the fireplace so that they can be filled by St. Nicholas overnight is particularly popular. This tradition goes back to a legend about St. Nicholas: A poor man could not afford the dowry for his three daughters and therefore could not marry them off. He already wanted to force them into prostitution. When St. Nicholas found out about it, he took gold from his handsome fortune and threw some through the family’s windows for three consecutive nights. On the third night, the father discovered the gift bearer and thanked him for his generosity.
Who accompanies Santa Claus?
It is often part of the tradition that St. Nicholas asks the children if they have been good. In some countries, St. Nicholas has a companion who can be quite scary. While in many parts of Germany this is the Knecht Ruprecht, in Austria and parts of southern Germany the Krampus is more common. The helper helps St. Nicholas distribute gifts or scares the children who have not been good.
He shall represent the tamed evil. So is the 5. December is known in many places as Krampus Day, when people dressed as Krampus parade noisily through the streets before they are finally tamed by the good St. Nicholas in the evening or the very next day.
Send a wish list to Santa Claus: this is how it works
Many children would like to address their wishes directly to Santa Claus. And that even goes! Because in the Saarland St. St. Nicholas there is the St. Nicholas post office, which from 5. December to Christmas Eve (24.12.) is run by volunteers. The little ones can send their letter to the following address:
To Santa Claus
66352 St. Santa Claus
Each letter is answered personally. More information can be found on the site of the Santa Claus post office.