Children wait for Santa Claus Monday

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Monday is “Nikolaustag,” Santa Claus Day. Traditionally the night before, children place their boots in front of their rooms hoping Santa Claus will come during the night and fill them up with candy, cookies, nuts and little gifts.

“Nikolaustag” is observed in honor of Saint Nikolaus, who was bishop of Myra, Asia Minor during the fourth century. Nikolaus was born around A.D. 270 in Patras. As the patron of children, he is one of the most favored saints. Legend says he once restored to life three little boys who were killed by an evil innkeeper, cut up and preserved in barrels of vinegar. Nikolaus found them, put them together and after saying a prayer, the boys were alive again.

Saint Nikolaus is also known as patron of skippers, because he was able to calm down stormy seas and save sailors’ lives.

In another legend, Nikolaus also became the patron of maidens. He saved three daughters of a poor family from becoming prostitutes because they did not have a dowry. One night, he secretly dropped bags of gold through their windows so the girls would be able to marry. Actually, he helped a lot of needy people by quietly giving gifts.

Nowadays, besides visiting families at home, Santa Claus also makes his appearance in kindergartens where he recites each child’s name out of his golden book and mentions if the child behaved well or not. The children have to sing him a song before they receive chocolate and sweets. Some children fear him because he might bring them a rod to let them know that they didn’t behave well throughout the year. But usually the rod is hung with sweets and is supposed to remind children of their bad behavior.

The costume of Nikolaus varies from place to place. In some regions he is dressed like a bishop with mitre and bishop’s crook who is accompanied by “Knecht Rupprecht,” a shabbily dressed peasant who carries the sack of toys and treats, flourishes bundles of rods and threatens punishment to naughty children. In the KMC, he appears mostly in a red robe and a peaked cap and has a long white beard. He is a friendly old man, who accepts children’s Christmas wish lists and asks children to promise to change for the better.