Nikolaus in Germany and the American Santa

Today, 6 December, is Nikolaustag. This is when children leave their boots outside the front door, and Nikolaus fills them with treats. As traditions vary throughout Germany, in northern Bavaria, where I grew up, we put our boots outside on the evening of 6 December.

In other areas (and other family traditions), boots are put outside on the evening of 5 December, with Nikolaus stopping by throughout the night to fill up the boots. Forget the reindeer, his transportation is unknown.

Nikolaus versus Santa

Santa versus Nikolaus

Santa was the invention of a German immigrant to the U.S.A. The cartoonist, Thomas Nast, was commissioned to design a comic figure for an American magazine. From there, Coca Cola picked up the same image and started using it in its commercials. That’s how Santa was born.

Saint Nikolaus himself was a bishop from Myra (Turkey), dating back to the 4th century. He is the patron saint of children, hence the gift-giving to the children, which dates back to the Middle Ages.

Zitat des Tages

„Die größten Meister sind diejenigen, die nie aufhören, Schüler zu sein.“

(The greatest masters are those who never cease to be students)

– Ignaz Anton Demeter –
archbishop of Freiburg, educator, and author
* 1773 † 1842

Door in Bad Arnis/Baltic Sea

Door in Bad Arnis/Baltic Sea


Quote of the Day

Seldom was any knowledge given to keep, but to impart; the grace of this rich jewel is lost in concealment.

– Bishop Hall –

Der Nikolaustag

Nikolaus im StiefelThe Nikolaustag is celebrated each year on 6th December. Nikolaus, accompanied by his assistant Knecht Ruprecht, brings small presents to children who have hung up their stockings the night before. He also visits schools and kindergartens where he usually gives the children sweets.

Although other figures in the English-speaking world such as Santa Claus are also derived from the same Saint Nicholas, in Germany he is often portrayed as a bishop and wears a mitre. The chocolate figures associated with the day are, however, usually in the red and white associated with the Santa Claus figure.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

(Press the “play” button to listen to the podcast)

Download a transcript

Download the MP3 file | Subscribe to the podcast

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