By Ann Landmann, Sales Rep
When I was growing up in the East of Germany, the 6th December was Nikolaus – your first haul of sweets or little presents in the run-up to Christmas.
The night before you have to clean your shoes and then you put them out nice and neat with everyone’s footwear and hope for the best. In the morning you either find sweets or little gifts, or coal, depending if you’d been good that year. I vividly remember getting a lump of coal one year, though I can’t remember what I had done that year to deserve that.
The sweets or coal is supplied by St. Nikolaus – not to be confused with Santa Claus or Father Christmas. St Nikolaus was Nicholas of Myra, a Greek Christian bishop, who died on 6th December in 343 AD (ish). During his lifetime he worked a lot of wonders, being especially kind, generous and helpful towards those in need. Nikolaus is known as a strict, yet fair person. He always asks the children if they behaved well in the past year and rewards them if they were. Today he is the patron saint of children, sailors and pawnbrokers, amongst others. He is also said to be the inspiration for the wooden Nutcracker figure.
The connection has been made between the Christmas Stocking and the German St Nicholas tradition, though I suspect my parents much prefer the German version, as it was guaranteed that I’d clean my shoes at least once a year.
These days I would of course prefer books instead of sweets!