December 6 is “Nikolaus Day”. For many people and children Nikolaus is a chubby man with a long white beard dressed in a red robe. He is sitting on a big chair, a child on his lap and giving out gifts. In fact, nowadays in the minds of people he is very similar to Santa Claus who lives at the North Pole and owns a toy factory or something like that.
However, there is a historical figure behind Nikolaus. It is Nikolaus of Myra, a bishop in a region of Asia Minor and Catholic saint who died on December 6 in the 4th century (it seems the year of Death is not altogether clear, don’t ask me how they determined the day!). Nikolaus has been worshiped as a benefactor of kids for centuries and today his holiday is mainly a day where kids wait for Nikolaus to bring presents.
There is a tradition that Nikolaus always comes with a companion, Knecht Ruprecht, who punishes the naughty kids, while Nikolaus himself is only there for the good ones, but it seems to become obsolete.
Even the custom to hire a professional Nikolaus is dying out. Not many families have a Nikolaus come to their home to inquire about the kids’ behaviour and end up with giving gifts. In our commercialized society gifts waiting to be opened by the kids are more than sufficient. Nobody cares for the legend or the lecture any more.
How do you celebrate December 6, if you do at all?