NewsLots of wild Christmas guys

Lots of wild Christmas guys

A Sicilian bishop recently proclaimed: 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.


Saint Nicholas.

Most of the figures shown here are associated with the patron saint of boatmen and seafarers. He’s her ancestor, so to speak. Nicholas of Myra died on December 6, 365 AD. This was originally the day of Christmas presents. In some countries this is still the case today. His crosier and miter on his head distinguish him from Santa Claus. The red clothing that is typical today is relatively new; in the past he was depicted with a green or blue coat, but only rarely in a red coat. He is accompanied by a negative image, a shadow. The good-hearted, wise Nicholas – Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus & Co as wild and punishing companions.


Christ child

Martin Luther invented it. Protestants rejected the veneration of saints and in the 16th century replaced Saint Nicholas with “Holy Christ”. From this, the Christ Child soon developed as a Christmas gift bringer. Along with the Advent wreath and Christmas tree, the custom spread to almost all German-speaking areas. In the 19th century he was increasingly supplanted by Santa Claus. The Christ Child then changed his denomination and is now mainly worshiped in the Catholic areas of the Alpine region. Originally a boy, it is usually portrayed as a girl.

Santa Claus

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

Santa Claus

In “Nieuw Amsterdam” (New York), emigrants celebrated the “Sinterklaasfeest” for the city’s patron saint. “Sint Nicolaas” became “Sinterklaas” and later “Santa Claus”. The poet Clement Clarke Moore describes him in 1822 as a good-natured cheerful older man in a red coat. The draftsman Haddon Sundblom visualized this figure in 1931 as a plump man with a white beard, a friendly facial expression and dressed him in the colors red and white. Coincidentally, these 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.


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 custom of St. Nicholas here, the children put their shoes in front of the door the night before. During the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, carol singers go from house to house blessing houses. The letters C+M+B and the year are written on the doors with chalk. The letters stand for the request “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” (Christ bless this house) but are often interpreted as the initials of the three saints: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

Saint Martin

Sankt Martin.


Saint Martin.

As a Roman soldier, he met a naked man in winter, whereupon he divided his cloak with his sword and gave half to the beggar. This act made him the patron saint of travelers and the poor. Out of modesty, he hid in a goose pen before his consecration as bishop of Tours. Because the chattering of the animals betrayed him, he is also their patron saint. He was buried on November 11, 397 AD with a procession of candles. This developed into the custom of today’s lantern processions. Martin’s Day marks the beginning of the time when the bringers of gifts come in winter. In Middle Franconia, children put boots in front of the door the night before, which are then filled with sweets in the morning.

Knecht Ruprecht

Knecht Ruprecht.


Knecht Ruprecht.

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


In the Berchtesgadener Land, groups of men who are tied in long straw, wear a horned wooden mask with a long tongue hanging out and have cowbells tied around their hips, accompany St. Nicholas and “Nikoweibl”. With noisy ringing and shouting they go from house to house. Their favorite victims are “naughty” teenage girls who are thrown in the snow and threatened with the rods, which are also a symbol of fertility. This custom, originally practiced to drive out winter, was linked to the contemplation custom of St. Nicholas through Christianisation.


The human-like, but much smaller and community-forming beings live in underground caves or hidden corners of the houses. You help people. But if they are discovered, they never come back, like the brownies. In the Scandinavian countries they are part of the Christmas tradition. In order for them to be able to come into the house, gnome doors (Danish: Nissedør) are made and attached over the baseboard. A small ladder or staircase is placed in front of it. In the evening, gifts for the elves are placed in front of it. The next morning there should be gifts for the people there instead.





He also accompanies St. Nicholas or the Christ Child. Regionally he also appears as Pelznickel. The name derives from the West-Central German “pelzen”, which means something like “beat”. Franconian short forms for St. Martin (martel) and St. Nikolaus (nickel) form the second part of the name. The Pelzmärtel does not wear a fur costume, although the name suggests otherwise, but is a “straw bear”, a character from the Swabian-Alemannic and Franconian carnival. As a fur coat, however, this only occurs during the Advent season. The suit is made of braided sewn straw and is hung with bells, including a sack with gifts and a birch rod.

Jack Frost

Väterchen Frost.


Väterchen Frost.

Is the personification of winter, who together with his daughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) gives gifts to children on New Year’s Eve. He is also accompanied by “evil”, by various fairy tale and legendary figures such as the witch Baba Yaga. The Jolka festival (Jolka = fir tree) artificially created by the Soviets is so popular in Russia that even after the reintroduction of the religious days of Christmas, which were banned from 1917 to 1992, most Russians cling to it – to the annoyance of the Russian Orthodox Church. Because December 31st is in the middle of the pre-Christmas Lent period, Christmas is not celebrated until January 7th.





He is related to the Prechten, but only appears in the entourage of Nicholas. On the evening of December 5, especially in southern Germany, the Krampuses, still untamed by the appearance of the saint, go in groups in a wild hunt through the villages (Krampus run). On St. Nicholas Day, his function is like that of Knecht Ruprecht: terror and punishment. A Krampus wears a fur coat or pants suit, a wooden mask (the so-called larva) and real goat, ibex or ram horns. Cow bells and a horse tail or cow tail are often attached to his belt. A long birch rod should not be missing.


Père Fouettard.



The French servant Ruprecht. His role varies according to local tradition, sometimes he is Santa’s helper in distributing gifts; or he appears as a counterpoint to the holy and punishes the naughty. The name derives from the French fouet = whip. Depending on the area, he appears dressed like Knecht Ruprecht or similar to Krampus.

Black Pete

De Zwarte Piet.


The Black Pete.

The pre-Christmas “Sinterklaasfest” is more important than Christmas in the Netherlands. The “zwart Piet” is the youngest companion of St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas), his figure was only introduced in the 19th century. On the festival day, groups parade through the streets in folk festival-like parades. The black Piet is shown as a dark-skinned court servant. Unlike the Knecht Ruprecht – who was also a “black man” but hardly appears today – the picture of the Black Piet has hardly changed. “Blackfacing” is not contemporary*, but in the Netherlands it is still difficult to let go of 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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