Counting the days until Christmas

Sentimental traditions go hand in hand with gleaming children’s eyes in Germany. The holiday season begins Dec. 1, when children are allowed to open the first window of their “Adventskalender.” The varieties of calendars are often filled with chocolates, candy, toys or little pictures and can be bought in stores or be homemade. Children are able to open one window every day until Dec. 24, in anticipation of Christmas Eve.

A special treat awaits “nice” children on Dec. 6, known as “Nikolaus” day, which relates to Bishop Nikolaus of Myra who spread his generosity in the fourth century by helping people in need. The night before Nikolaus Day, children shine their boots and put them in front of the door, hoping for St. Nikolaus to stop by and fill the boots with fruit, nuts and chocolates. The “naughty” children fear his dark companion “Knecht Ruprecht” who is believed to put coals and osier stakes into the naughty children’s shoes. Nikolaus will usually pay a visit to Christmas markets and hand out “Lebkuchen” or other treats to the children.

The “Christkind,” another symbolic figure of Christmas, replaced Nikolaus as gift-giver in the 16th century. According to German tradition, the Christkind is an angel-like figure with golden-blonde curls and shining halo that brings the children presents without being seen. Traditionally, living room doors will be locked on Christmas eve (Dec. 24), so the Christkind can put the presents under the tree. Once children hear the sound of a bell, the doors are unlocked and they can enter the living room, finding their presents under the tree. At the end of the 18th century, the word “Weihnachtsmann” (similar to Santa Claus) was first mentioned in Germany and has since then become part of German culture. Who delivers the presents on Dec. 24 is individual Family preference or tradition.

German post offices offer children the possibility to write letters to the Weihnachtsmann, Nikolaus and Christkind. Addresses and more information can be found at www.deutschepost.de/de/w/weihnachtspost/weihnachtsmann-christkind.html.

Whether Santa Claus or the Weihnachtsmann delivers the presents on Christmas, the holiday season in Germany may be the most wonderful time of the year. Frohe Weihnachten and happy holidays!