In the German-speaking world, December 6th is Nikolaustag, or Saint Nikolaus’s Day. This day commemorates St. Nikolaus, the Catholic saint who would later serve as the basis for the Protestant Weihnachtsmann/Father Christmas/Santa Claus. In reality, Nikolaustag supports my theory that a.) Germans love Christmas more than anyone else, and, therefore, b.) Germans will do anything to celebrate their favorite holiday for as long as possible. (Advent is another example of Germanic Christmas-extending.)
So, what do you do on Nikolaustag? My high school German teacher told us that Nikolaustag serves as a sort of pre-Christmas test for kids. On the night of December 5th, kids put out their shoes before they go to bed. In the morning, if they are good children, Nikolaus will have filled their shoes with oranges, nuts and chocolate Nikolauses. If, however, the kids are naughty, Nikolaus’s evil helper, Knecht Ruprecht, will have placed a bundle of switches in their shoes instead of the treats. This is supposed to warn the bad children to shape up before Christmas Eve, or else.
I woke up to find that the Nikolaus had brought me Damme’s first snow, as well as a sore throat and a flat bike tire. Blast. Once I got to school, I learned that all of the teachers at Gymnasium Damme had received oranges, walnuts, gingerbread and cookies. Apparently, I need to get my act together regarding my personal life, but my professional life is in tip-top shape. I also received 2 “Nikolaus-grams” from colleagues. Maybe I could get into this pre-Christmas gift-giving.
The Nikolaus also brought one other thing: my new niece! My youngest sister, Heather, had her baby yesterday. Phoenix Elle Riley is 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 20 inches long. She was a week late, and we were all getting antsy, but she’s finally here! Although I doubt I want any children of my own, I adore my nieces and nephews. I have three nephews and three nieces. They are the coolest kids I know, AND they sometimes make my sisters crazy, which I love.
On a German note, my friend, Thomas, taught me a German word for my situation, because of course there is one in German. He explained that at 5+ nieces &/or nephews, you can officially use the German verb tanten, as in “Ich habe sechs mal getantet.” (I am an aunt six times over.) I’m guessing the male equivalent would be onkeln? I love this language. (Updated 1/9/2012. See author’s note below.***)
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first birth I’ve missed while in Germany. Last time I was here, my oldest niece, Cheyenne, was born, and another two of my sisters got pregnant. It seems that the rule is when Heidi goes to Germany, Heidi’s sister has a baby. I hope this rule is intransitive, just in case any of my sisters ever travels to Germany.
Regardless of why one celebrates Nikolaustag, I am beginning to think it’s pretty great.
Alles Liebe zum Nikolaustag and welcome to the world, Phoenix!
***It turns out that my friend, Thomas, was completely messing with me. “Tanten” is not a word. I guess all this time in Germany has dulled my sarcasm receptors.