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December 6: Nikolaus, Komm In Unser Haus December 7, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in About Me, Advent Calendar of Carols, Christianity, Just for Fun.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

…First of all, apologies for the posting delay. It’s been a crazy but rewarding 24 hours. A HUGE shout-out to all the amazing students who stood up once more against the oppressive regime in Iran to fight for freedom, and whose protests I and my friends were helping to tweet/liveblog today on Twitter and Facebook. Josh Shahryar (NiteOwl)’s excellent liveblog is here, with an extensive and very impressive collection of videos here via @homylafayette.

But now, back to the happier world of Christmas carols…

A short while ago a Twitter friend (thanks @sara055!) was telling me about the Sinterklaas tradition in Holland; one similar to (and the origin for) our own Santa Claus tradition. “St. Klaas”, known for his generosity, always gave his things away – even his only jacket in winter. He is said to come from Spain by boat every year on December 5. He is accompanied by his “black men” or “black Peters” (“zwarte pieten”), similar to Santa’s helpers, who record throughout the year which children have been good and which naughty. The good ones are given gifts, while the bad ones are supposedly stuck in a bag – and taken back to Spain! ๐Ÿ˜€

One custom is for the children to leave little “gifts” (a drawing for Sinterklaas and a carrot or hay for his white horse that he rides over the rooftops) by the fireplace. In the morning these will have vanished, to be replaced by toys. In another tradition, as the children are singing Christmas songs the evening of December 5th, a knock will come on the front door. When the door opens, candy will be thrown in by the “black men” and bags with gifts left by the front door. Sometimes people dressed up as Sinterklaus and the “black men” will even come inside!

This made me think about the similar German custom in which children set out for their shoes/boots by the front door on December 5, “Nikolausabend”. Sankt (St.) Nikolaus is said to come in the night and fill the shoes with sweets, chocolates, fruit and toys – at least for good children. Bad children will get nothing in their shoes – or even worse, a switch! ๐Ÿ˜€ Sometimes “Nikolaus” will visit in person and ask the parents if the child has been good, even looking up their yearly record in his golden book.

My family, though we kept a lot of the German traditions, never did Nikolausabend. Instead we just put out our stockings on the 24th. But both my sister and I attended German Pre-Kindergarten. If “Nikolaus” visited, I don’t remember it, but my sister sure did! In her words: “He was one scary dude. I didn’t want to get near him. I think he asked me if I was a good girl, and I nodded vehemently. We have a picture of me looking terrified and keeping my distance.”

…Apparently she wasn’t the only one to think soa kindergarten in Austria has apparently banned any in-person visits by “Nikolaus” for being too “scary”. Poor guy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

For those who enjoy history, both the Sinterklaas and Nikolaus traditions trace back to a real man, St. Nicholas of Myra, who was said to not only be generous but a miracle worker as well! So maybe flying horses and black men with magical bags of candy are not so far-fetched after all. ๐Ÿ˜€

So here, without any further ado, is my favorite “Nikolaus” German Christmas carol. (The lyrics on the video are slightly different from the ones I grew up hearing, which are listed below…I prefer them!)

Nikolaus komm in unser Haus,
pack die groรŸen Taschen aus.
Lustig, lustig, trallerallala!
Bald ist Nikolaus abend da, Bald ist Nikolaus abend da.

(Nikolaus, come into our house,
Come unpack your great big pouch.
Merry, merry, tralalalala!
Nikolaus Eve will soon be here, Nikolaus Eve will soon be here.)

– The Contrapuntal Platypus



1. Danya - December 8, 2010

I’ve never heard of the “black men” helpers for Santa – intriguing! And that Nikolaus looks like a pretty stern guy, I must admit.

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