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Christkind or Weihnachtsmann: Who brings the presents on Christmas?

How is Christmas for you:

Do you wake up on the morning of December 25, all excited and eager to see what gifts have arrived during the night?


In Germany, the time until morning is too long for us!


That's why Christmas presents are already given on December 24, the night before Christmas, on Christmas Eve

For families with small children, the celebration often begins as soon as it gets dark, that is, around 4 pm.

Geschenke unter dem Baum

Some families will now receive presents from the "Christkind" (Christ Child / Baby Jesus) and others from the "Weihnachtsmann" (Father Christmas) who comes flying with a big sack on his reindeer sleigh.


Of course, both have hard-working helpers: sometimes they are angels, sometimes elves.


And then there is also someone else who brings presents: that is der "Heilige Nikolaus" (Saint Nicholas), who already came to the children on December 6.



But - who is the one, that really brings the Christmas presents?


First of all, we must first understand who der Weihnachtsmann, das Christkind, and der Heilige Nikolaus are.


Der Nikolaus (Saint Nicholas)

Heiliger Nikolaus

St. Nicholas was the first of the three to bring gifts.


He was the bishop of Myra and was born in 270. Later he was venerated as a saint.


As early as the 16th century, it was common for children to receive small gifts - for example, apples or nuts - on the day St. Nicholas died, December 6.


There is a legend according to which St. Nicholas saved three girls from prostitution.

The father of these girls was very poor and had no money for the dowry, that is, the money that had to be given as a gift at the wedding. He did not even have enough money to feed the family. The bishop Nicholas heard about this.

That night he came to the family's house and threw three gold nuggets through the window.


Thus the girls were able to marry and were saved.


Because of this story, St. Nicholas is still bringing his small gifts at night when the children are asleep.



Why did St. Nicholas get "competitors"?


In the 16th century came the Reformation. Many things that were common in the Catholic Church were questioned.


Martin Luther rejected the veneration of the saints - and with it, the veneration of St. Nicholas and the tradition of him bringing gifts on December 6.


On the other hand, he knew how important the joy of gifts has always been to people.

So he changed the tradition a bit:

In his home, from about 1530, the "Holy Christ" brought the gifts on the night of his birthday (Christmas), that is, on December 24



Das Christkind (Christ Child/ Baby Jesus)


das Christkind

It is not certain whether Martin Luther actually "created" the Christ Child as we know it today, or whether he only gave the impetus to it.


Over time, Baby Jesus in the manger became a figure similar to an angel. Every year on Christmas Eve he comes to us on earth and puts the presents under the Christmas tree.



Perhaps this idea arose from the angels in the nativity play:


These are mostly cute little girls, preferably with blond curls, in long white dresses.

Just add a halo - and this is how many people still imagine the Christ Child today.

For example, the Nuremberg Christkind at the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is famous all over the world.

Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt

The Christ Child brings the gifts mainly in the south and west of Germany.

Ironically, these are the regions where people are traditionally more Catholic.



Der Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas)


Weihnachtsmann mit Geschenken im Schnee

Der Weihnachtsmann mainly comes to families in northern, eastern, and central Germany.


His origin goes back to St. Nicholas of Myra.


In some regions, Saint Nicholas had a companion on December 6th: Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus. Bishop Nicholas was the one to reward the good children while his companion was responsible for punishing the bad children.


In the 19th century, the image of these men became more and more mixed up in people's minds. They turned into: The Weihnachtsmann as we know him today.


The famous song „Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann“ was also written during this time, in 1835. The German poet Hoffmann von Fallersleben describes in this song, how wonderful the "Bescherung" is, i.e. the party just after Santa Claus has brought the presents.


The first drawing of this new Santa Claus is from the year 1862. The caricaturist Thomas Nast, who emigrated from the Palatinate, Germany, to what is now the USA, drew a big, bearded man in red and white clothing bringing gifts to Union soldiers from the north.


This image was taken from Coca-Cola and made world-famous through Christmas advertising.


And ... who brings the presents then?


We still don't know who really brings the presents: Christkind or Weihnachtsmann.

And maybe we'll never know.


Because ... who would dare to look through the keyhole ???

looking through the keyhole

 

When I was a child, it was the Weihnachtsmann who came to our house. After all, my parents come from Northern Germany.


Today I live with my family in Bavaria. This is where the Christkind usually comes. Our children are convinced that the two of them are simply collaborating. After all, it's a lot of work to provide gifts to children all over the world!


And how about you: is Santa Claus coming to your house? Or is it the Weihnachtsmann? Or the Christkind?


 

Would you like to practice your German?


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