Montag, November 27, 2006

Santa and Crowd!

November 27/06

To straigthen things out for my "across the ocean" friends, we have an abundance of Xmas ghosts (?) milling around. First there is....NIKOLAUS

Celebration in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland

In Germany, Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a small scale. Many children put a boot, called Nikolaus-Stiefel, outside the front door on the night of December 5 to December 6. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good. If they were not, they will have charcoal in their boots instead. Sometimes a disguised Nikolaus also visits the children at school or in their homes and asks them if they "have been good" (sometimes ostensibly checking a book for their record), handing out presents on a per-behaviour basis. This has become more lenient in recent decades.
But for many children, Nikolaus also elicited fear, as he was often accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, who would threaten to beat, or sometimes actually eat the children for misbehaviour. Knecht Rupert furthermore was equipped with goatlegs. In Switzerland, where he is called Schmutzli, he would threaten to put bad children in a sack and take them back to the Black Forest. In other accounts he would throw the sack into the river, drowning the naughty children within. These traditions were implemented more rigidly in Catholic countries such as Austria. In highly Catholic regions, the local priest was informed by the parents about their children's behaviour and would then personally visit the homes in the traditional Christian garment and threaten to beat them with a rod. In parts of Austria, Krampusse, who local tradition says are Nikolaus's helpers (in reality, typically children of poor families), roamed the streets during the festival. They wore masks and dragged chains behind them, even occasionally hurling them towards children in their way. These Krampusläufe (Krampus runs) still exist, although perhaps less violent than in the past. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Mikuláš is often also accompanied by an angel who acts as a counterweight to the ominous Knecht Ruprecht (čert). In Slovenia Saint Nikolaus (Miklavž) is accompanied by an angel and a devil (parkelj) corresponding Austrian Krampuss. In Luxembourg "Kleeschen" is accompanied by the "Houseker" a frightening helper wearing a brown monk's habit. In Croatia Nikolaus (Sveti Nikola) who visits on Saint Nicholas day (Nikolinje) brings gifts to children commending them for their good behaviour over the past year and exhorting them to continue in the same manner in the year to come. If they fail to do so they will receive a visit from Krampus who traditionally leaves a rod, an instrument their parents will use to discipline them.

Pretty frightening, that guy and entournage. Could traumatisize your kid for a lifetime (in fact,younger daughter claims, he did) and then we have a softer version...
THE Christkind ,
which presents itself mainly in catholic ,i.e. southern German areas. Cute little angel with wings, flying around, depositing the gifts on Christmas eve.

And last but not least there is the good old WEIHNACHTSMANN, that's the guy, who most resembles the American Santa, but he does not slide down the chimney and has no sled either,just little helpers,like angels and dwarfs. He also appears on Christmas eve and with some families Christmas day morning. -Often a relative or the man of the house himself acts as the Weihnachtsmann, knocking at the door and handing out the presents.
Problem with that guy is, he is crowding the city beginning early December,and every halfways smart kid from latest the age of 4 starts wondering why there are so many of them. First doubts about his excitance are planted.

Now,hopefully, Landfrau has put some light into the confusion,and remember...
only 27 DAYS TILL X-MAS!!!

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