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A German Holiday

December 6th is a holiday in Germany called St. Nikolaus day. St. Nikolaus is portrayed as a grey-haired man with a flowing beard who wears bishop's robe, a golden cape and carries a staff. He visits the children to enquire about their behavior during the past year. On Monday, St. Nikolaus was seen all over Germany riding his horse and surrounded by small figures with painted black faces who passed out cakes and candy to the children.

The story of St. Nikolaus, the bishop of Myra in Minor Asia, who died on December 6th, 343, 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.

As an American, parts of this tradition are interesting, the parallels to our own Santa Claus (St. Nick), but other parts are disturbing in its political incorrectness. But there is also pleasure in participating in traditions different from what I know and seeing how others simply celebrate the holiday as it has always been, and not conforming to today's ideology. Putting aside my own feelings and trying to understand what the meaning of the celebration is, for me, what diversity should be about.


  1. Heidi Willis said...
    I remember celebrating this when I lived there as a kid. We'd put our shoes outside the door when we went to bed on the 5th and they'd be full of candy on the 6th. Sort of the German version of hanging stockings I guess.

    We've done it a few times with my own kids, but usually we manage to float by the day without remembering it, as no one here does.

    I think it's great to be a part of local traditions. This is something your son will be all the richer for as he grows up, no matter what country he ends up living in. :)
    Erin Halm said...
    I agree with you Kerri. The best thing to do when you live in a different country is to try and enjoy the new traditions without judging too much.

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