Celebrating Nikolaus The GC Way
Last year the Garden Collage team told The Story of Nikolaus— the original “Nicholas” who would eventually inspire the mythos of Santa Claus, who now informs a beautiful tradition that still takes place in Germany every year on December 6.
Though his legacy would eventually inspire the mythos of Santa Claus, the real Saint Nicholas lived in the third and fourth centuries. As we wrote last year: “Born to wealthy parents, Nicholas of Myra led a pious life in what is now Southern Turkey, eventually becoming a bishop. He earned his sainthood with miracles and frequent generosity towards those in need–he gave away much of his inherited riches–though he was known for being especially kind towards children. According to legend, he once met three young sisters in peril of entering prostitution–their father being too poor to pay their dowries. Hearing of their troubles, Nicholas snuck onto their roof one night and dropped three lumps of gold down their chimney. The three pieces of gold fell into the three sisters’ boots, warming by the fire. When Nicholas died on December 6th 346, the date became a holiday observed in his honor.”
Today, children celebrate the holiday by placing a thoroughly-polished boot (just one, so as not to appear greedy) by the window or door on the evening of December 5th. If they have been well behaved and their boot is clean, Nicholas (or Nikolaus as he is known in Germany) leaves fruits, chocolates, and candies in their shoe during the night. If they have been mischievous and ill-behaved, tradition dictates they will find a twig or switch (for their parents to spank them with) come morning, though this practice has largely disappeared in modern times. In some places, children leave a list of what they would like for Christmas, for Nicholas to pass on to Father Christmas.
As Garden Collage Creative Director Laura Braun points out, “We don’t have a Christmas morning in Germany as in the U.S.,” she says. “Santa Claus (aka Weihnachtsmann) comes in the evening, usually after dinner…”
To honor this beautiful tradition, we’ve updated our Nikolaus celebration with a “grown up version”– instead of heavy winter boots, we’ve styled a pair of high heels (with floral details) filled with lovely botanical goodies. It’s a thoughtful way to honor what has become one of our favorite global holidays.