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Saint Nikolaus Day in Germany

Published: 12/04/2014 by Matthias Slovig

Nutcracker St. Nicholas by Steinbach

Nutcracker St. Nicholas by Steinbach

December 6th is a very special day for children all over Germany. It marks the ‚Nikolaustag’ (Day of St. Nikolaus). Sankt Nikolaus is also inspiration for the Erzgebirge manufacturers who created Nutcracker St. Nicholas by Steinbach, or Smoker Holy Sant Nikolaus, for example.

The Nikolaustag is celebrated for Nikolaus of Myra, one of the most popular saints of the Christian churches. During his lifetime between 270 and 326 AD (or 365, the sources are not clear about the year of his death), he worked a lot of wonders. He was always known to be especially warm-hearted and helpful towards weaker people. He helped people that were victims of injustice or helped sailors that got lost in a storm by chasing the storm away. With his good deeds, St. Nick became the patron saint for a lot of groups such as bakers, farmers, brewers or distillers, to only name a few.

Smoker Holy Sant Nikolaus by KWO

Smoker Holy Sant Nikolaus by KWO

Nikolaus is known as a strict, yet fair person: He always asks the children if they behaved well in the past year and rewards them in case they were. If not, the kids were threatened to be put in the sack and were carried away (Don’t worry, parents. that never happens in real life). Nikolas is supported by Knecht Ruprecht, his grumpy fellow. They both play a good cop / bad cop game that the children love and fear at the same time.

The tradition of gifts on the day of St. Nikolaus has its origin in a legend where he gifted the father of three daughters money, and therefore prevented the family from impoverishment. In Germany, it is common to hand out small gifts only since Christmas with the big presents, delivered by the Christkind (Christchild) is close. The children usually place their shoes or boots outside the door in the night from December 5th to December 6th. Nikolaus fills them up with small gifts, some fruit and candy.

Kids in Germany love the Nikolaustag and it is often a big event in schools and kindergarten as well as on the Christmas markets.

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