In Germany, the morning of the 6th December is almost like Christmas. On the evening of the 5th, children all over the country are busy cleaning their boots. They leave them out for Sankt Nikolaus – Saint Nicholas in English – to fill with goodies overnight, and wake up to a lovely surprise in the morning.
Who is Nikolaus?
Who is this Nikolaus, you may wonder? The real Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (today located in Anatolia, Turkey) who died in the 4th century. He is the patron saint of children, sailors, students, and merchants. He was known for doing miracles as well as leaving secret gifts.
Nikolaus is kin to the Dutch Sinterklaas and, more distantly, also to the British Father Christmas, as well as the American Santa Claus.
Nikolaus day gifts
Germany is a big country and the celebrations of Sankt Nikolaus vary from region to region. He even goes by different names and can have some scary companions! But one thing seems to stay the same wherever in Germany you live: leaving sweet surprises in children’s boots.
Traditionally children’s freshly polished shoes were filled with chocolate, oranges, as well as coins or small toys. Of course, unless they had been naughty. In which case they might have found coal or wood switch instead of a tasty treat.
Nowadays advertisements and offers for Nikolaus gifts rival those of Christmas both in size and expense. Nikolaus Day is, without a doubt, part of the bi-annual German chocolate extravaganza.
Our take on celebrating Sankt Nikolaus
This is the first year that our family will be celebrating Nikolaus. First, our baby was too young to understand what it’s about. The next year we were in the USA celebrating the wedding of a dear friend. Last year Birdy would’ve happily participated but we were in Latvia – where this tradition doesn’t exist – for the whole month of December.
And while we are finally celebrating this year, we refuse to get sucked into the gift madness promoted by advertisements and stores. Firstly, the gifts should actually fit into the shoes. Secondly, Christmas season is so overloaded with all things sweet that it’s quality above quantity.
We’re keeping our Nikolaus gifts simple: one shoe with a tasty treat or two, the other shoe with a small gift. This approach to Nikolaus gifts actually sounds like something we might stick to in the coming years!
Welcome to our fifth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016) plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest!
Hispanic Mama: Ecuador
Let the Journey Begin: Germany
Lou Messugo: Provence, France
All Done Monkey: Philippines
Crafty Moms Share: Bangladesh
Raising a Trilingual Child: Italy
Gianna the Great: Choctaw Nation
American Mom in Bourdeaux: France