Thursday, December 6, 2007

St.Nicholas in da House

Tonight Nikolaus was in da house.

In Germany, Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a small scale. Many children put a boot, called Nikolaus-Stiefel, outside the front door on the night of December 5 to December 6. St. Nikolaus then fills the boot with gifts, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good. If they were not, they will have a tree branch ("Rute") in their boots instead.

But for many children, Nikolaus also meant fear. He is often accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht (kinda like Santa’s little helper), who would threaten to beat the children for misbehavior. Funnily enough in Bavaria Knecht Ruprecht is called Krampus and in Switzerland he is called Schmutzli, he would threaten to put bad children in a sack and take them back to the Black Forest.

In other accounts he would throw the sack into the river, drowning the naughty children. Though these traditions were implemented more rigidly in Catholic countries such as Austria or Bavaria. In highly Catholic regions, the local priest was informed by the parents about their children's behavior and would then personally visit the homes in the traditional Christian garment and threaten to beat them with a rod.

Does this strike anyone else as really violent? Okay nowadays it is really only about filling the boots with sweets and little presents and it was so cute this morning to go downstairs and see the little boots in front of our neighbor’s door filled with goodies.

It brought me right back to my childhood, when I asked my Mom if I can polish my boots and I did so with full vigor. Then I had to put my pair of boots out the door and went to bed. I could hardly contain my excitement and I never wanted to go to sleep but I could not stay awake either. So I never caught Nikolaus in the act. The next morning was usually great fun when I got to see what Nikolaus left for me. My parents always made sure to find something small that was a surprise and they continued to do so until I moved out. I love them for keeping up this tradition.

Happy St. Nicholas Day everyone.

13 comments:

Danielle A. said...

What a neat tradition! Well... except for that whole having the priest come and beat the crap out of you thing. That does seem a bit violent and excessive.

Kat said...

Danielle, I am so with you on that. It is a wonder that so many kids grew up fearing to be beaten by an ugly guy with a tree branch...I mean seriously, what were they thinking in the good old days?

Emily said...

I like that tradition too. It is kinda like filling your stockings only with boots.

Melisa said...

I think that is so cool (other than the violence). I have a friend who follows that tradition with her kids (she lives here). Her late mom was German and she's carrying it on!

Jenna said...

This sure sounds good. I like everything to do with Christmas.

Lindz said...

That is so fun! Not so much the scary part about going to the black forest or being put in the sack but... This takes me back to los reyes magos (the three wise men) who are celebrated in Spain. They are the ones who bring you presents there and once again, has to do with your shoes!

Kat said...

@ Lindz - I remember that when I came home in January one year and my spanish roomate had filled my smelly sneakers with yummy spanish candy...

Patty said...

What a cool tradition, well except for the Santa's goons and the priest of discipline. I never knew St. Nikolaus day was celebrated this way. Thanks for sharing the story.

Uncommon Blonde said...

What an interesting story. I can almost picture what Knecht Ruprecht looks like - something like Kreacher from Harry Potter. lol
When all else fails threaten your children with beatings and drownings?! And I used to think getting coal in my stocking would be a major tragedy. Little did I know ...

Kat said...

@ Uncommon blonde- you have actually gotten coal in your stocking? Wow you must have been a naughty girl :)

@ Patty - it is really cool. I used to love it as a kid

Rob said...

I went to Catholic school in the US. Trust me, the tradition of beating kids was still alive and well in the 70's except they did not need a special day for it! :)

The nuns handled the everyday mundane beatings; the priest was only called upon for special, beyond the pale beatings.

Somehow, I am still a smart ass in spite of all the spankings I got for being one.

After all the spankings I got from nuns though to this day penguins and tuxedos still make me nervous.

Kat said...

Rob no wonder you're getting nervous...being beaten in school now that is something.
The only thing that happened to me was a set of key flying my way and hitting me in the head...

Jeninacide said...

Ok wait- so was it just a RUMOR that the priests would come and threaten to beat the children or did they really do that?

Either way! Violent!

At least nowadays it's just about the presents. Ha!