USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘St. Nicholas Day’
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Saint Nicholas Day

Main Piece

“Saint Nicholas is like Santa Claus, but in Germany he’s still Santa. His day is December 6thand umm, the night before, you leave your boots out for Saint Nicholas. I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember the traditions that we would do.

So, you leave your biggest pair of boots out, and like, you know – however big your boot is how much you’re going to get. So, you want to leave really big boots out. And he leaves oranges, is like the big thing he leaves. And candies and chocolates and small toys in your boots. So, you leave them out the night before and you get your boots. But I remember oranges being the big thing.”

 

Context

The informant told me this story while we were exchanging fun things we used to do when we were little. We got on the topic of Christmas and told each other traditions we participated in when we were younger. After some research, the oranges are supposed to represent the gold balls that St. Nicholas would throw at children. St. Nicholas day is December 5th and children put out their shoes/boots that night so they can collect them the morning of December 6th.

 

Background Information

The informant was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. She comes from a family where both of her parents are lawyers in the military (jags). She has lived in Germany, Kansas, Virginia, and goes back to Oregon every summer to her family’s main home. While living in Germany, she spent Christmas there and her family participated in the Christmas tradition there.

I have heard of Christmas traditions such as “Elf on the Shelf” and leaving out your stockings to be filled with gifts and candies on Christmas Eve. My Christmas traditions never included these, but we would bake and leave cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. I have never heard of leaving out boots so early before Christmas, and wonder why Santa giving oranges was such a big deal.

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Krampus: Addendum

Informant: The Krampus, well the Krampus is a beast-like creature that looks like a devil but with horns and satyr like feet and a really long tongue. He is from the Alpine countries and is related to St. Nicholas day where he follows St. Nicholas around. He punishes naughty children by putting sticks in the shoes they leave out for St. Nicholas, or  even worse he will kidnap naughty children, stuff them in his bag, and steal them away to hell, never to be seen again.

 

The informant is a middle aged mother of two older children. She is a first generation American who was born in Danbury, Connecticut. Her father was born in Oriente, Cuba and her mother was born in Mór, Hungary. The informant and her sisters were told of the Krampus from their mother when they were teenagers. Although the informant does not believe in the Krampus herself, the informant’s mother did. As a child, the informant’s mother would put her shoes out on the Eve of St. Nicholas’s Day, December 5th. On St. Nicholas’s Day, December 6th, is it said that the Krampus would accompany Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas would put candy and sweets in the shoes of the children who were well-behaved and the Krampus would put sticks and twigs in the shoes of the children who had been naughty. It was also thought that the Krampus would abduct really misbehaved children and take them away to hell.

The informant remembers the tales of the Krampus because she felt it was “funny and creepy at the same time.” The informant felt that Germanic, Hungarian parenting could be very punitive, and still kept “the old-fashioned belief that you can scare children into behaving.”

Although other entires have already discussed the Krampus, they label the Krampus as German folklore. I think it is important to stress that this is not entirely the case, the legend of the Krampus has spread to other countries around Germany like Hungary as the informant who described the Krampus to me is of Hungarian origin. In fact, the legend of the Krampus comes from the folklore of Alpine countries, not solely Germany.

According to the informant, in many countries like Austria, Southern Bavaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, young men dress up as the Krampus and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. Also, the informant said that the Krampus is “featured on holiday cards called Krampuskarten.” (Below are some examples of Krampuskarten)

 

    

The Krampus also appears as the subject of a novels such as:

Brom, Gerald. Krampus: The Yule Lord. New York: Harper Voyager, 2012. Print.

And even makes an appearance in the Colbert Report:

“Sign Off – Goodnight With Krampus.” The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. Wednesday December 9, 2009. Television.

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