Is it Santa? Is it Father Christmas? No, It is Saint Nikolaus!

It is the season of the abundance for old, white-bearded men dressed in red outfits. But who is who? It is a bit confusing if you are unfamiliar with these traditions. On every 6th of December in Germany, children (they are the ones who receive gifts) celebrate the Nikolaus Day. So, Nikolaus arrives before Father Christmas. If you have ever wondered who is St. Nikolaus and what some traditions are related to this day, wonder no more!

Who is Saint Nikolaus?

He was born in the 4th century in the ancient town of Myra (now near the city of Antalya in modern Turkey). He was a prominent religious figure who has later on become a Christian bishop. He was known for his generosity, kindness and for secretly giving gifts to those who are in need. Even though he used to be one of the ‘minor’ saints of Christianity, he has become well-known in Europe and Russia around Middle Age; thus, many churches were built to honour his name. Today he is known as Nikolaus the “Wonder Worker” and the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants and students. He is also patron saint and protector of many countries and cities such as Greece, Russia –and wait for it, Freiburg! Beliefs and traditions about Nikolaus were probably combined with German and Nordic mythology, particularly regarding stories about the bearded pagan god Odin, who also had a beard and a bag to capture naughty children. However, many religious families try to focus more on Nikolaus earlier in December to ensure that Christmas is actually about Jesus’ birth, and not presents from an Americanized and commercialized Santa –so remember there is a difference!

Leave Your Shoes out A Night Before

It is believed that if children leave their shoes out on the night of December 5th they will find gifts in their shoes next morning. That of course is the case if they had been good kids! These gifts used to be small gifts like coins, chocolate, cookies or even carrots. The boots that you leave out have to be clean and polished if you want to get gifts! Then the legend says that Nikolaus comes in the middle of the night on a donkey or a horse and leaves little treats.


Frohen Nikolaus!


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