Today is Saint Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus). How did you behave all year? He will know!
Perhaps you were good and could start out your day already with a full boot full of treats. Or you are still waiting until tonight when Saint Nicholas himself comes by and pays you a visit.
Many German families celebrate this beloved tradition the way that they have their children put out a boot overnight from the 5th to the 6th of December so that Saint Nicholas could fill it with oranges, nuts, chocolates, and even small toys. This would, of course, happen only if the child had behaved well all year. Surprisingly, they always had!
In some families, like mine, Saint Nicholas would actually come by in the evening of the 6th of December. Every year it was a big affair. We had friends with their children over to await the honored guest. O my, was I nervous as a young child!
Around 6 pm we would hear little bells and heavy footsteps crunching through the snow towards our patio door looking out onto the black pitch garden. And there he suddenly was! Standing in front of our patio glass door knocking with his white-gloved hand. Saint Nicholas!
All of us kids would huddle together, while my dad would open the door and beckon the honored guest in. Every year we were awed just the same!
Saint Nicholas and his Golden Book of Truth
Saint Nicholas entered our living room. Dressed in a bishop’s robe with a red cape and a Mitra he had a heavy burlap sacket over one shoulder and a huge golden book clasped underneath his other arm that was also holding a golden staff. After we all had greeted him he took a quick glance at the half circle of children asking one of us to come forward to hold his precious crozier. We were all excitedly terrified and intimidated at what to expect next.
He sighed and slowly leafed through his golden book when suddenly stopping at one page, he announced a name and looked at us children with questioning eyes. The one, who had been named, timidly stepped forward and Saint Nicholas looked at him or her with a friendly look and exclaimed in a deep voice: “Now, let’s see what my little angels have written about you over the past year.”
He started reading out of his big golden book all, that he or she had achieved over the year, and what the parents were so proud of. Saint Nicholas would approve with little nods here and there or even utter some words of admiration.
With gleaming faces, we listened to his every word wishing just that the end would not be too embarrassing since everyone else was listening. We were aware that most likely, not everything had been perfect over the year and knew that Saint Nicholas would close by mentioning something we could thrive for and do better in the following year.
Every child had finally been addressed and received a little burlap sacket filled with treats, that Saint Nicholas retrieved from his big one. But this wasn’t the end. No!
Now it was time for entertainment! The parents would ask Saint Nicholas to take a seat and enjoy a glass of red wine while he would listen to our, the children’s presentations. Relieved, we children moved to this more relaxed part and recited our poems, played holiday music on our flutes and the piano.
After a short social time with Saint Nicholas, we finally accompanied him back out to the garden where he vanished into the dark, leaving us with the noise of the crunching footsteps in the snow and the jingling of bells in the air.
Exhilarated we ran back inside the house to indulge in unpacking our presents at last.
Image: Title image ©CaliforniaGermans , Pixabay.com