So I wrote in an earlier post on this blog that Germans don't have stockings on Christmas Eve but what I failed to mention was they DO get presents in something they normally wear on their feet namely, their shoes. On the night of December 5th Niklaus comes and, if the children have properly cleaned their shoes, he delivers them small presents and chocolate to a shoe that has been placed in front of their bedroom door.
Since this is the first Christmas where Mia is old enough to know what's going on, she's been learning a lot about all the different holiday figures: She knows Santa, she knows Frosty, she's at least heard of Rudolph. But this Niklaus guy, how could I explain him to her without overwhelming her two and a half year old senses?
"Niklaus is Santa's brother," I told her, trying to connect them together.
"No, they're not!" Jasper said, somewhat entsetzt.
I thought about it later and realized how do we know they aren't brothers? I mean, what do we even really know about this Santa Claus guy? That he's old and doesn't shave much and likes to eat? That he lives in a cold and dark place but apparently does not suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder because he laughs like a bowl full of jelly and, once a year, travels around the world in one night delivering presents to all the good little boys and girls? How do we know his brother Niklaus doesn't live in a cottage on an ice floe down the road? One is into shoes, one into stockings; hey, it's a family thing....
All I can say is, thank god for Wikipedia. I read this article on Santa Claus and learned a lot of interesting things. Some of them were predictable; namely, that Santa Claus, Niklaus and Sinterklaas (as my Dutch ex-boyfriend called him) are all the same guy, St. Nicholas, whose feast day is, yep you guessed it, on December 6th. Some of the information was more unusal, like there have been parellels drawn between St. Nick and Odin as well as a mention of the untrue legend that Coca Cola invented Santa Claus (something that I've heard many times from smug, arrogant German college students I've taught, who claimed it was just another example of how American pop culture has ruined the high culture of Europe. Granted, you can be critical of certain more obnoxious parts of American culture, but please at least get your facts straight. In my experience, snobbery is often largely based on ignorance....)
The good news is, even if you're more into Niklaus, there is still a slutty Santa outfit to be had for the ladies. Here's the example I found when I googled Niklaus images (under the heading, Niklaus Kostüme, Gr. S):
Happy (belated) Niklaus everyone and keep those shoes nice and polished!