In Germany, where we have lived, off and on, many years, December 6th is the day that St. Nicklaus comes, not Christmas. Saint Nicklaus, as opposed to Santa Clause, wears a long red robe with white trim, more like a coat, and it comes down past his knees. He often has a shepherd’s crook in one hand, and is sometimes pictured riding on a horse.
I got this wonderful print – one of many from The St. Nicholas Center where you can find many beautiful old postcards portraying the old European precursor to the modern Santa Claus.
Children put out their shoes, and hope that St. Nicholas will come by and fill them with candy, oranges, small goodies, and not with branches (to be used as switches) and coal, which are for bad children. Germans have such a sense of humor that you can also find branches with candies tied to them, and candies that are wrapped to look like coal. Kind of a mixed message, I guess.
The original St. Nicholas, so the legend goes, was a Bishop in Myra, then in Greece, now a part of Turkey near Demre. He threw bags of gold through the window of a poor family with three daughters, who would not marry without dowry. This is the bare bones of the St. Nicholas legend – I learned a lot more from the same site where I got the photo Who Is Saint Nicholas? You can learn so much more by clicking there. He is, to me, so much more lovable than Santa Claus, who commits house invasion on a grand scale once a year!
In the tiny village where we lived in Germany, I would get up early in the morning and put small cakes and candies on the doorsteps of the three women who were particularly good to me. Oh! The looks on their faces later when they spoke to me.
The grandmother would say “What? you think we are children, that St. Nicholas comes to us?” but you could see from the grin that it tickled her.
Aren’t we all still children, deep inside, thrilled when some unexpected blessing comes our way? Isn’t it always fun, child or not, to be surprised by something good?