Gizzy in Heaven!

Gizzy in Heaven!
I love you forever and ever, Amen!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nikolaus von Myra

In Germany, Sankt Nikolaus Tag (St. Nicholas Day), is celebrated on December 6. This is the favorite holiday of all children - it's a gift-giving day. A reverend gray-haired figure with flowing beard, wearing gorgeous bishop's garments, gold embroidered cape, mitre and pastoral staff, visits the children and inquires about the behavior of the children. Sankt Nikolaus is accompanied by his servant "Knecht Ruprecht" a scary looking, often hunched over guy, carrying a sack with toys and also equipped with a switch or paddle for punishing (ok, at least intimidating) the children who have been naughty all year (and believe me, they know who they are...) The custom of examining the children, where they will cite a verse, sing, or otherwise show their skills, is still widespread in German-speaking countries. Each little one gets a gift for his performance. It's not uncommon to see even the biggest boys running scared when his name gets called, because they are all afraid of Knecht Ruprecht. If he does have to use the switch, it's barely a touch, but the experience and public humiliation is enough to make the biggest bully cry. Growing up in Germany, I spent a lot of time in day care that was run by the Catholic nuns. When someone misbehaved, all they had to do is threaten to write his or her name in the black book for St. Nikolaus to see and we did whatever we could to make things right, because once your name's in there, it can not be erased. So, they kept a black and a gold book and our names got written in there according to our deeds. I tell you what, that was a great disciplinary tool. The most famous tradition on St. Nicholas Day is that little (and not so little) kids put their polished shoes or socks outside the door or window, and at night St. Nicholas fills them with little gifts...or coal if they were bad most of the year! You can also put out an empty plate somewhere by the hearth or outside and then you will get your "just reward" on your plate. Some of the German childrens songs sing about St. Nikolaus...and anxiously waiting the night before to find in the morning what he had left at night...(similar to Santa Claus here) only St. Nicholas leaves stuff on the plate for the children.
Is that beer in the shoes on the right? Just got to love good ole St. Nik! The story of St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra (Greece) who died on December 6th, dates back to the 4th century. He is said to appear in the company of Knecht Ruprecht, "Knecht" meaning "servant". Historically, Ruprecht was a dark and sinister figure wearing a tattered robe with a big sack on his back in which, as a legend says, he would put all naughty children. St. Nicholas also appears together with St. Peter, with an angel, the Christchild (Christkindl*) As the gift-giving function of St. Nikolaus began to shift to the splendor of the candle-lit Christmas tree and emphasis on the birth of Christ, Knecht Ruprecht became the servant and companion of the Christchild. In this role Ruprecht became the patron saint of Christmas and was called "Weihnachtsmann," Father Christmas or Santa Claus. *Note my post about the Nuernberger Christkindlsmarkt. Judgement Day! Wouldn't seeing that coming down the mountain just scare the tar out of you? (...even if you didn't do anything wrong.) Maybe we need some of that good old fashioned European Religion to intimindate our bad guys over here. I see the title of a movie called "St. Nikolaus and his gang of Ruprechts" a-roop, a-roop, a-roop...
(actually, these guys traveling with Sankt Nikolaus above are called Krampus. They are from Germany's neighbor, Austria, where the Saint's assistants look and act even scarier than in Germany (if you can believe that), but just look at this video:

(Personally, I think some people need a little foretaste of hell to make them behave decently, but then, that's just my opinion - I could be wrong!)

17th century European history reveals that St. Nikolaus has traveled with an array of unsavory servants, known as Zwarte Piet, Cert, Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus, Black Peter. Read this to learn more.

Happy Holy Days to you and yours!
(be sure your 5th window is open on your Advent's Calendar)


Just Playin' said...

Such a cute picture. I've only seen wooden Dutch shoes filled with treats and that seemed like another world but your picture makes it real. "Our" shoes!

Jane (Frugal Fine Living) said...

What a wonderful post! I love the idea of the shoes. Your blog header picture is adorable, too!


Julie said...

Hi Doris, What a great story...You know my Grandfather was born in Germany...But I was never told of this story...Love the beer in the shoes...Lucy ask me to tell you that Grizzy looks so cute in his Christmas picture...
Merry Christmas
Julie & Lucy

Doris Sturm said...

I'm testing my comments to be sure I can receive them and there seems to be no problem, so comment on!

Anonymous said...

I love your stories about your childhood. It is great to see how different customs came about. Man those nuns had ways to make you walk the line for sure. I went to school 12 years under them. They made me most of what I am today.

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Oh boy, how I love hearing about the German traditions! My ex-hubby would share so little with me and I just love hearing about anything European, anything family had many strange customs from long ago, but they had scrambled them all up with the U.S. ways of doing things, naturally...

What a wonderful post today!!!

Fairy Footprints said...

Doris oh my gosh this is such a neat way to give gifts, I loved the pictures.

Have a wonderful weekend.



Karin said...

Saw your comment on QMM's blog. Came for a visit because I thought your name sounded German! Once again, I was right, lol!!! Doesn't happen toooooo often! Enjoyed reading your post about Knecht Ruprecht!! Ancient memories for me!

♥ Kathy said...

My sister will be so excited to know that her birthday is a holiday! :D

♥ Kathy said...


There is no place to leave a comment on your newest post. Just thought I'd let you know. I wanted to tell you that your scarf turned out lovely. Have a nice day!