NewsLots of wild Christmas guys

Lots of wild Christmas guys

A Sicilian bishop recently announced: Santa Claus does not exist, he never existed! Instead, we believe in saints and their dark side personified – shadow people from Christian times. In any case, there are many strange Christmas parcel carriers. A family portrait

Saint Nicholas

Sankt Nikolaus.

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Saint Nicholas.

Most of the figures shown here are associated with the patron saint of boatmen and seafarers. He is her ancestor, so to speak. Nikolaus von Myra died on December 6th, 365 AD. This was originally the day when Christmas presents were given. In some countries this is still the case today. The bishop’s staff and miter on his head distinguish him from Santa Claus. Today’s typical red clothing is relatively new. In the past, he was depicted with a green or blue coat, but only rarely in a red coat. A negative image, a shadow, is placed next to him. The kind-hearted, wise Nikolaus – Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus & Co as a wild and punishing companion.

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Christ child

Martin Luther invented it. Protestants reject the veneration of saints and in the 16th century replaced St. Nicholas with the “holy Christian”. From this, the Christ Child soon developed as a Christmas gift. Together with the Advent wreath and Christmas tree, the custom spread in almost all German-speaking areas. In the 19th century he was more and more displaced by Santa Claus. The Christ Child then changed denominations and is now mainly worshiped in the Catholic areas of the Alpine region. Originally a boy, but mostly portrayed as a girl.

Santa Claus

Today the symbol of Christmas giving. His direct role model is the North American Santa Claus, but there are differences. While the model is in a jacket and trousers, in Europe, especially in France, he wears a long red coat with fur trim. In France, where it is called Père Noël, the sack with gifts is replaced by a butt carried on the back. The “Weyhnachtsmann” was mentioned for the first time in 1770 in a Berlin newspaper. With the song “Tomorrow comes Santa Claus” (1835, August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben) he is finally part of Christmas customs in Germany.

Santa Claus

In “Nieuw Amsterdam” (New York) emigrants celebrated the “Sinterklaasfeest” for the city’s patron saint. “Sint Nicolaas” became “Sinterklaas” and that later became “Santa Claus”. The poet Clement Clarke Moore describes him in 1822 as a good-natured, cheerful older man in a red cloak. In 1931 the draftsman Haddon Sundblom visualized this figure as a plump man with a white beard and a friendly facial expression, and dressed him in red and white. Coincidentally, those were the colors of his client, Coca Cola. The appearance found its way back to Europe through the advertising campaigns. As Santa Claus.

Three holy kings

Heilige Drei Könige.

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Holy Three Kings.

They are said to have arrived in Bethlehem on January 6th to bring their gifts to Jesus. In Spain and South America, this day is the day of gifts. Similar to the Santa Claus custom with us, the children put shoes in front of the door the evening before. In the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, the carol singers go from house to house and bless the houses. For this purpose, the letters C + M + B and the year are written on the doors with chalk. The letters stand for the request “Christ Mansionem Benedicat” (Christ bless this house) but are often interpreted as the first letters of the three saints: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

Saint Martin

Sankt Martin.

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Saint Martin.

As a Roman soldier, he met a naked man in winter, whereupon he parted his cloak with his sword and gave one half to the beggar. This act made him the patron saint of travelers and the poor. Out of modesty, he hid in a goose stable before his ordination as Bishop of Tours. Because the animals’ chatter betrayed him, he is also their patron saint. He was buried in a candlelight procession on November 11, 397 AD. From this the custom of today’s lantern parades developed. With St. Martin’s Day, the time of the winter gifts begins. In Central Franconia, children put boots in front of the door the evening before, which are then filled with sweets in the morning.

Knecht Ruprecht

Knecht Ruprecht.

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Knecht Ruprecht.

As the ending of his name suggests, he is a Precht. Sometimes it is also referred to as “Rauer Percht”. The helper of St. Nicholas, like all the people accompanying him, appears as his opponent, he punishes the naughty children as a “tamed devil” and thus embodies the evil of this world. As a rule, he is wrapped in a brown and black habit, wears a walking stick, a large hat and a black beard. In the past he was often depicted with dark skin. While other Saint Nicholas companions appear in groups, he forms a couple with the saint. In the course of time his character became more independent, and so there are regions where Knecht Ruprecht alone performs the tasks of Nicholas.

Buttnmandel

In the Berchtesgadener Land, Nikolaus and “Nikoweibl” accompany groups of men who are wrapped in long straw, wear a horned wooden mask with a long tongue hanging out and have cowbells tied around their hips. They go from house to house with noisy bells and shouts. Their preferred victims are “naughty” teenage girls who are thrown into the snow and threatened with the rods, which are also a symbol of fertility. This custom, originally practiced for driving out winter, was connected to the retreat of St. Nicholas through Christianization.

Imp

The human-like, but clearly smaller and community-forming beings live in underground caves or hidden corners of houses. You help people. If they are discovered, however, like the brownies, they never come back. In the Scandinavian countries they are part of the Christmas tradition. So that they can come into the house, gnome doors (Danish: Nissedør) are tinkered and attached over the baseboard. A small ladder or stairs are placed in front of it. In the evening, gifts for the elves are placed in front of it. The next morning there should be presents for the people instead.

Pelzmärtel

Pelzmärtel.

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Pelzmärtel.

He also accompanies St. Nicholas or the Christ Child. Regionally it also appears as a fur nickel. The name is derived from the West-Central German “pelzen”, which means something like “to beat”. Franconian short forms for St. Martin (Märtel) and St. Nikolaus (Nickel) form the second part of the name. The Pelzmärtel, although the name suggests otherwise, does not wear a fur costume, but rather a “straw bear”, a figure from the Swabian-Alemannic and Franconian Carnival. However, this only occurs as a fur market during Advent. The suit is made of woven, sewn straw and hung with bells, which includes a birch rod in addition to the sack with gifts.

Jack Frost

Väterchen Frost.

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Väterchen Frost.

Is the personification of winter, which gives presents to children on New Year’s Eve together with his daughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden or Snow Maiden). He is also accompanied by “evil”, by various characters from fairy tales and legends such as the witch Baba Jaga. The Jolka Festival (Jolka = fir tree), artificially created by the Soviets, is so popular in Russia that even after the re-introduction of the religious Christmas days, which were banned from 1917 to 1992, most Russians hold on to it – to the annoyance of the Russian Orthodox Church. Because December 31st is in the middle of the pre-Christmas Lent, Christmas is only celebrated on January 7th.

Krampus

Krampus.

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Krampus.

It is related to the Prechten, but only occurs in the retinue of Nicholas. On the evening of December 5th, especially in southern Germany, still untamed by the appearance of the saint, the Krampus wandered in groups in a wild hunt through the villages (Krampuslauf). On St. Nicholas Day, its function is like that of Knecht Ruprecht: horror and punishment. A Krampus wears a coat or pants suit made of fur, a wooden mask (the so-called larva) and real goats, ibex or ram horns. Cowbells and a horse’s tail or cow’s tail are often attached to his belt. A long birch rod should not be missing.

Father Fouettard

Père Fouettard.

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Father Fouettard.

The French servant Ruprecht. His role differs according to local tradition, in some cases he is the helper of Nicholas in distributing the gifts; or he appears as a counterpoint to the sacred and punishes the naughty. The name is derived from the French “fouet = whip”. Depending on the area, he appears dressed like the Knecht Ruprecht or similar to the Krampus.

Black Pete

De Zwarte Piet.

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The Black Pete.

The pre-Christmas “Sinterklaasfest” is more important than Christmas in the Netherlands. The “Zwarte Piet” is the youngest companion of Nikolaus (Sinterklaas), his figure was only introduced in the 19th century. On the festival day, groups march through the streets in folk festival-like processions. The black Piet is depicted as a dark-skinned court servant. In contrast to the servant Ruprecht – who was also a “black man”, but hardly appears today – the image of the black Piet has hardly changed. “Blackfacing” is not up to date *, but it is still difficult in the Netherlands to give up this tradition. With the “Black Lives Matter” movement, the demand for a change in custom became particularly loud. There are fierce arguments in the search for a contemporary adaptation. That’s why we only show him from behind.

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