In is no secret that both Katarina and I hate mornings. Especially cold winter Monday mornings. We'd much rather stay tucked under our comforters, warm and cozy. But this morning, despite the temperature and mix of snow and rain, we had an incentive to throw off the covers and start the day. Next to Christmas Eve, December 6 is the most anticipated day for children in Germany, because it is Sankt Nikolaustag.
Before going to sleep on the evening of December 5, children polish their boots and set them outside the door (in some regions the house door, others the bedroom door) in hopes that St. Nikolaus will leave a sweet surprise for them. Traditionally, if the children have been good during the year, the boots are filled with oranges, nuts, chocolates and small gifts. In our region he is known to be accompanied by his helper Knecht Ruprecht who gives a Rute (a branch or twig) to the misbehaved ones. In former times, the two of them would go door to door visiting the children who would sing songs or recite poems. Then Nikolaus opened a book that told him whether they'd been good or bad throughout the year. Good children received the treats while the bad ones received the rod by Ruprecht. Ouch!
You can see the similarities here. The boots are like the German equivalent of our Christmas stockings. Receiving a twig is like getting coal inside. Even the name Sankt Nikolaus is the same when translated. However, Sankt Nikolaus is no fictional character. He was a real person born around 245 A.D. in the port city of Patara in what we now call Turkey. He later became the Greek Bishop of Myra. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in shoes. For more information on him, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas.
Since I rarely buy candy, Katarina has always looked forward to this day. This year, in addition to the traditional sweets, we added some CrazyBandz, Cola lip balm, a charm bracelet, cosmetic bag (yes, I am tired of finding her nail polish and lip gloss all around the house), and a memory card so she, too, can have a bunch of songs on her cell phone (of course, according to her, ALL her friends have one and she looks like the "depp" again). Needless to say, she was satisfied with her presents.
I, too, was happy. For the past two years, Katarina has been playing St. Nicholas for us. Last night she told Stefan and I to put our boots out, and before going to bed she filled them with chocolates and nuts. Yeah...she's alright. I think we'll keep her. ;-)