“Bald ist Nikolausabend da! Bald ist Nikolausabend da!”
(rough translation: Fun, fun, tralalala, soon it will be the evening before St. Nikolaus Day! Soon it will be the evening before St. Nikolaus Day!”)
If you are like me, this song has been stuck in your head all week. The Christmas season is upon us here in Germany, which is entrenched in traditions such as visits to the Christmas markets, lighting candles on the Advent wreaths each Sunday and celebrating St. Nikolaus Day.
This Sunday gone was St. Nikolaus Day, and my family and I were invited to celebrate the event on Saturday at a friend’s house. Our friend Melanie was visiting us from London this weekend, so it was amusing and interesting to see this tradition and all of its associated rituals surrounding it from her perspective.
The hostess of the event, Petra, requested that I provide important information for Nikolaus on each family member and our guest: what did each of us do that was good and where was there room for improvement. In other words, how were we naughty and how were we nice? It was the ultimate annual review, and it would all go down in Nikolaus’ Golden Book.
We all gathered at Petra’s house as requested on Saturday evening (it was her preference to celebrate on Saturday rather than on the actual St. Nikolaus day). Soon we could hear the thump of a staff against the door, and St. Nikolaus entered carrying his staff, Golden Book and sacks of gifts. Melanie whispered that “he looks quite like a bishop!” with his tall miter on his head and long red robes. (I had to whisper back that he was indeed a bishop!)
Awe of Nikolaus seemed to set amongst all of the children in the room along with their parents. He greeted us and then opened his book to see who was first on his list. He called each of the families forward to sit at his feet while he read from his book. It’s an excellent opportunity to enforce messages which long-suffering parents may have had to repeat all year long. “Nico, you eat all of your vegetables, but I hear that you goof off too much at the dinner table. You need to work on sitting and eating properly like a big boy.” What little kid is not going to listen to what Nikolaus says!
Our nearly three-year old Vera was praised for singing and dancing happily as well as taking good care of her little sister and listening like a good girl to her parents and her Kindergarten teachers, but she was also told to sleep through the night and eat properly at the table. One-year old Stella was told that while she ate well, she mustn’t pinch her parents or sister!
Meanwhile, Vera and Stella’s mama (ahem) was praised for always taking good care of Vera and Stella, especially when Papa was away, but she was also reminded to accept more readily that others could be right. The girls’ papa was praised by Nikolaus that he was able to take care of both girls very well now and that he was good about supporting Mama as much as possible, but he really needed to not curse so much in front of the children!
The best part of the evening was when our unsuspecting friend Melanie, who was also called forward with us, didn’t realize that Nikolaus had something about her in his Golden Book! And, haha, if he did, she wouldn’t understand any of it. Well, lucky for her, I had arranged for this particular Nikolaus to receive the text, furnished by one his agents based in London (Melanie’s former flatmate!) in advance so that he could practice reading it in English! Here it is below.
How was Melanie a good girl this year?
– She’s helped her friends when they needed help such as with moving house.
– She baked delicious cakes for friends and even baked cupcakes for a children’s community dance event.
– She’s doing an outstanding job at work and has been named a “rising star.”
How was she naughty?
– She should save more money towards buying a flat. Apparently, she’s been spending hundreds of pounds on designer handbags.
– She shouldn’t go out to clubs so often. She spends a lot of time staying out late at gay clubs, which is not so good for her health or for her sex life.
So much for it being a family event; it was great fun to see Melanie blush! Later, she hissed to me, “What’s Nikolaus doing in my bedroom?!”
This Nikolaus demanded that we each perform something in order to receive our gifts, in addition to listening to his praises and admonitions! Our family sang “Jingle Bells” and managed to botch the lyrics. Luckily, this Nikolaus, said, “Very good!” and we still got our presents, though I suspect it might have been ’cause he didn’t have the English language facility to tell us we were crap.
The girls got traditional paper sacks full of nuts, fruit and a few chocolate Nikolauses. The adults got lovely woven lidded baskets with sacks of fair trade red rice inside.
We made out well: content with our presents and focused on improving ourselves for the year ahead. Mel already said that she would be tracking her budget better and would think about those on-line dating sites once again – now that she knows that Nikolaus is watching.