Today (Dec 6) is an important day to German kids as they’re supposed to receive gifts from St. Nikolaus, Germany’s Santa Claus, on this day.
Our German teacher, who looks just like Santa Claus without a beard, thought we should start celebrating St. Nikolaus’ Day yesterday – he volunteered to play the role of St. Nikolaus and gave us this cute Santa Claus chocolate:
Legend has it that this Nikolaus dude was a bishop who helped poor people by giving out presents secretly, and he climbed onto the roof of three sisters’ house to drop three lumps of gold down the chimney. The German version goes that the gold fell into their shoes while the British one says it fell into their socks, and that’s why children here place their shoes or boots instead of stockings in front of their doors for presents.
There’s another guy called Knecht Ruprecht who appears on St. Nikolaus’ Day. He is the nightmare of naughty children because he beats them up with his bag of ashes and gives them ugly, undesirable gifts like lumps of coal and stones. Very mean I’d say.
The German tradition holds that St. Nikolaus (or Knecht Ruprecht if you aren’t nice) appears at night on Dec 5 and fills children’s shoes with presents (or ashes and other useless stuff).
My building was also celebrating it and we found a red poster on our door telling us to put our clean shoes in front of the door. So feeling rather festive, my flatmate Maggie and I left our boots outside before going to bed.
I felt a bit nervous this morning when I opened the door; I certainly didn’t want any trash or ashes in my boot!
Andrea arrived the same evening and she brought me a surprise!
She brought me a Grittibänz made by her mom on St. Nikolaus’! The slightly sweet bread-man is traditionally baked on St. Nikolaus’ Day in the German-speaking region of Switzerland, which is why I’d never seen it in Germany. I’m eating part of it right now, and it tastes like Christmas!
In the evening we went out to the Heidelberg Christmas market and saw several St. Nikolauses and Knecht Ruprechts giving out candies. We also went to my favorite crêpe store behind the Holy Spirit Church and the friendly owner gave us candies like we were still kids (and we didn’t mind at all! Thanks a lot!).
It all felt very warm and merry; and the fact that Andrea was there sharing all these lovely moments with me put a smile on my face as we went home with a full and happy stomach that night.