Christmas is celebrated all over the world at the end of December, but in German-speaking countries the most distinctive children’s festival of the year is celebrated on Dec. 6.
Sankt Nikolaus Day normally brings the young of the German speaking regions (plus Belgium and Holland) together with their families, to help prepare for the holidays by baking spiced cookies and making gifts and decorations.
In the early 13-century the magic of Sankt Nikolaus began. In these early times in Germany, it was said that Sank Nikolaus healed the wounded and made the sick better.
Although most of his patients were children, sailors also honored this man. These seamen thought that Sankt Nikolaus shielded them for treacherous storms and made them safe. Therefore, Sankt Nikolaus became the patron saint of children, sailors and merchants.
Another series of stories involved three soon to marry sisters, who were having dowry troubles because their father was not wealthy enough to create his daughters’ dowries.
Again Sankt Nikolaus saved the day. He gave the three girls the money for their marriages. It is unclear to how he delivered such a present. Some say he threw money through their windows, while others believe he put the money in the stockings the girls hung by the fire to dry.
No matter the legend, the honor of Sankt Nikolaus is still celebrated today. Much like our gingerbread cookies, the believers of St. Nikolaus make little dolls out of fruit and cakes and give them away as gifts.
On Dec. 6, the kids leave letters by their windowsills, in hopes that the man of the hour, dressed much like our Santa Clause with a gray beard and a flowing robe, will deliver gifts to their little German homes.
Besides making cookies and preparing for gifts, people of these German-speaking countries also set up Christmas trees on Sankt Nikolaus Day. This is again similar to our tradition at Christmas, but they decorate several trees around their homes instead of just one tree.
Everyone knows that it wouldn’t be any holiday celebration without the gourmet foods and treats prepared. One of the traditional dishes during Sankt Nikolaus Day homemade is Taai Taai, which is like a really spicy gingerbread dough that can also be shaped into dolls.
Sankt Nikolaus Day is a very special holiday for people in the German-speaking countries. However, they also celebrate Christmas.