This past weekend, we celebrated Nikolaustag. Saint Nicholas Day is observed on December 6 here in Germany and in many Western European countries. Saint Nicholas, or Nikolaos of Myra, was known during his time for being kind and generous, giving to those in need, and for his love of children. He was also known as a secret gift-giver. Children would leave their shoes out for St. Nicholas to find coins that he had placed in them. This became the model for the present day Santa Claus (derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas).
The tradition of leaving shoes out for St. Nicholas lives on here in Germany. On the eve of Nicholas Tag, children will place their shoes by the fireplace or outside the door or window of their house and hope for the best. If a child has been good, the shoes will be filled with various goodies. If a child has been bad, they supposedly get left a stick. Maybe to give to an adult for a good spanking?
Brad and I love the idea of Nicholas Tag and think it would be nice to continue the tradition long after we leave Germany. We appreciate that St. Nicholas brings gifts several weeks before Christmas. This keeps the focus of Christmas on Christ instead of the “guy” that brings presents the night before (as with Santa Claus). We also like the fact that the child’s shoes are what St. Nick fills. This keeps the gifts (and the cost of them) on a small scale.
Our participation in Nicholas Tag began when Nathan was a year old. It wasn’t until this year (now that he is 3 years young) that he understood the concept or was even remotely excited about the prospect of getting goodies in his shoes. We, of course, had to put out the biggest shoes (the rain boots) to give St. Nicholas ample space to fill. We woke up Saturday morning and his reaction was priceless. When he saw his boots, his eyes lit up. He could easily tell they were filled with goodies. With excitement in his voice, he pulled out some German chocolates, a clementine, two wooden trains, and a new set of markers that have built-in stamps. It was so much fun watching him. He was so happy and just couldn’t stop smiling. It was a great reminder of what it was like to be a kid at Christmastime.
Information on Nikolaos of Myra derived from Wikipedia.