In Germany, St. Nicholas is not Santa Claus

Does everyone know that St. Nicholas is not Santa Claus? I have to admit that when I began visiting Germany at Christmas, having been raised on Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, I assumed they were one and the same and I suspect I’m not the only American who has failed to note the difference.

In Germany, on the other hand, the 4th-century bishop Sankt Nikolaus, also known as der Nikolaus, is far less likely to be confused with the Johnny-come-lately cartoon symbol of modern Christmas commercialism, der Weihnachtsmann (the Christmas Man).St. Nicholas is not Santa Claus

There is even a movement within a certain segment of the Catholic church that promotes Weihnachtsmannfreie Zone (Santa Claus-free zones). The group appears to be absolutely serious, but is clever enough to deliver its message with a light touch and a good deal of humor.

Check out their website, which is both informative and amusing. (Google translate does not do a good job here, I’m afraid.)

Not that there isn’t a place in Germany for the Santa we know and love: it’s in the north, in cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. In Leipzig Santa arrives by train to open the Christmas season; in Rostock he sails in from the Baltic Sea, and so forth.

And don’t forget the Christkindl! For a quick refresher on who that is and how she fits into the picture read my earlier post, German Christmas History Basics.

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