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Nikolaustag - Saint Nicholas Day

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In Germany, 6 December is known as ‘Nikolaustag’ (Saint Nicholas Day). The night before, German children anticipate an overnight visit from ‘der Nikolaus’ by scrubbing their shoes and leaving them in front of their doors in the hope that they will be filled with chocolates and sweets!

Some families prefer to hang stockings by the fireplace instead of placing their shoes outside. Many years ago, children would awake to find tangerines, apples, nuts or baked goods in their shoes or stockings; although in recent years sweets and chocolately gifts are more the norm.

Nikolaustag in Germany
Nikolaustag in Germany© dpa

Besides the night from the 5 to 6 December, Saint Nicholas also visits various events marking the day across Germany and has been spotted at kindergartens, schools, sport meetings or even office Christmas parties!

He carries a large sack bulging with gifts for young and old and reads from a golden book in which he made a note of children’s behaviour during the year. Children often render poems to give the Nicholas a treat:

German

English
Ach du lieber Nikolaus,
komm doch einmal in mein Haus!
Hab so lange an dich gedacht!
Hast mir auch was mitgebracht?

Oh my dear Nicholas,
please pay my house a visit!
I’ve thought of you for so long!
Have you brought me something?

Sometimes ‘der Nikolaus’ doesn’t come alone, and is accompanied by his antagonist and bugbear known as Krampus (or Knecht Ruprecht in northern parts of Germany). The Krampus has a fear-inducing appearance and doesn’t bring any gifts. Instead, he threatens to put naughty children who haven’t behaved in to his sack.

Fortunately, Knecht Ruprecht and the Krampus are just an old wives’ tale and by the end of 6 December, every last child will have received a gift and beam from ear to ear!