In Germany, the night between the 5th and 6th December is not any normal night. The kids prepare for it by cleaning and polishing their winter boots. When that is done, the boots are placed outside the front door and the kids go to bed. Usually they are having trouble sleeping. They are excited. I always tried to stay awake the whole night ““ but never could. When the morning finally arrived, they rush outside to get their boots ““ which now are filled with sweets and small presents.
The above describe is the basic Nikolaus tradition. There are some regional variations to the details. In some areas, Nikolaus has a companion, whose job it is to punish the bad kids (usually by hitting them with twigs). Where I come from, it always only was Nikolaus on his own. But if you had been a bad kid the past year, you only would get some pieces of coal instead of sweets and presents.
The tradition is based on Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra. In his lifetime, he was known for secret gift-giving: he left gold coins in the shoes of the poor.
And opposite to the popular myth that Santa Claus only was invented by Coca Cola for marketing reasons, Saint Nicholas is the real reason for us “believing” in Santa today. Even the socks on the chimney can be traced back to myths about him.
What about you? Do you have any special Christmas traditions that you always look forward to as a kid? Or maybe you still do?