Sankt Nikolaus

A little history...

My Mother was raised in Germany. My Father was born and raised in Seattle, but his Grandparents were born in Germany. My Mom and Dad met in Eckernförde, Germany...fell in love...and then my Mom moved to Seattle with my Dad.

With that, my two brothers and I have grown up with tons of German traditions. We all went to German language school when we were young, we sing German Christmas songs, we all took German in High School, and we've all traveled to Germany multiple times to see my Mom's 1/2 of the family.

This Saturday night, Sankt Nikolaus is coming!!! If you didn't grow up in a German household, then this probably means nothing to you. In my family, this is one of the funnest days of the year.

Basically, on the 5th of December everyone writes up their letter to Santa. Children put their letters and lists in their shoes and leave them outside on the front porch. Sankt Nikolaus comes in the middle of the night, with Knecht Ruprecht, and picks up all the lists. If you were a good kid, Sankt Nikolaus leaves candies and other treats in your shoe. If you were a bad kid, Knecht Ruprecht leaves coal in your shoe.

A bit more history about this special day:
In the German-speaking countries December 6th is the most distinctive children's festival of the year. St. Nikolaus Eve is a time of festive stir, it is a time of whispers and giggles, and of heavy steps on the stairs. Shops are full of many-shaped biscuits, gilt gingerbreads, sometimes representing the saint, of sugar images, toys and other little gifts.

When evening comes, St. Nikolaus, a reverend gray-haired figure with flowing beard, bishop's raiment, gold embroidered cope, mitre and pastoral staff, will knock on doors and inquire about the behavior of the children. The custom of examining the children, where they will deliver a verse, sing, or otherwise show their skills, is still widespread in German- speaking countries.

Nikolaus traditions vary as widely from region to region as his guise and name. He appears as Ruhklas, Pelznickel, Klasbur, etc. He is afoot or astride a white horse, a mule, or even a goat. More diverse than those of the saintly Nikolaus are the many legends and traditions surrounding his often wild companions.

His best known companion is Knecht Ruprecht, "Knecht" meaning servant. Historically, Ruprecht was a dark and sinister figure clad in a tattered robe with a big sack on his back in which, legend has it, he will place all naughty children.

Don't forget to leave your list and shoe out on Saturday night!