St. Nikolaus – the ultimate betrayal

Yesterday was St. Nikolaus in Germany –  the day when Saint Nick pops in and fills children’s boots with chocolate and treats. Assuming, of course, that the data (supposedly compiled by angels) in his Golden Book suggests the children have been well behaved enough.

Naughty children in Germany suffer a gruesome fate, which varies depending on which part of the country they live in.

Up here in North Rhine Westphalia miscreants will be given a birch instead of sweets, with which their parents are supposed to whip them. Maybe St. Nikolaus hasn’t actually consulted the Jugendamt – or perhaps whipping is not considered to be child abuse when it’s on special occasions.

Further South, badly behaved children will be carried away by the Krampus – a devilish creature who carries a bag on his back and abducts children, never to be seen again.

Of course the unexposed scam is that German parents actually pay for St. Nikolaus (and possibly the Krampus) to visit on the evening of December 6th. In some areas the local Arbeitsamt actually runs courses for the unemployed to learn to play the roles and your local St. Nick-team can charge €50-100 for a brief but terrifying visit, which is guaranteed to produce exemplary behaviour from your offspring for the next 12 months. (Hmmmm… actually that sounds like a bargain!)

, via Wikimedia Commons”]Those more recently arrived from ‘Elf & Safety obsessed Britain will of course want to know whether these long-term unemployed, recently trained Saints and Devils have had the equivalent of a CRB (criminal records bureau) background check. The answer is no. Of course not.  Mwahahahaha! The very job of the St. Nikolaus and the Krampus is to abuse and traumatise your child.


The minute they show up, your son or daughter will be wracked with guilt for all their misdeeds over the past 12 months and paralysed with fear that now is going to be payback time. What they do not know though, is that the information which is held in the Saint’s Golden Book, does not, in fact, come from the Angels. It’s been leaked by their own parents. Saint Nikolaus is merely the Julian Assange figure, compiling and publishing the data which their parents wrote down and passed on.

The experience for your children, as any American diplomat will confirm, is at best highly uncomfortable. The Saint will read out – in front of everyone – a list of your deeds and misdeeds from the past 12 months, and all the while the birch is sticking out of the top of his bag, or the Krampus is leering at you, about to abduct you from your home forever to lengthy torment and an early death.

On top of this… having put you through all this torture, the Saint will then expect you to recite a poem. Or sing a song. Or perform on the piano or the recorder.  Have you ever tried remembering the words to “Advent Advent” when you’re actually crapping your pants?

Even though the Saint (nearly) always comes up with the sweeties in the end, the burden of guilt and doubt are the overriding memories. The Lebkuchen and Pfeffernüsse will turn to ashes in your mouth.

Compared to St. Nikolaus, the British/American Santa Claus seems…well, like Father Christmas!

, via Wikimedia Commons”]


Filed under About Germany, children in germany, German festivals, Life in Germany

7 responses to “St. Nikolaus – the ultimate betrayal

  1. Thanks, Cathy, for making me feel 6years old again 😉

    I remember it sooo well. We lived in a little village and St Nikolaus came to the village hall. I remember playing a carol on the recoder and I vividely remember Nikolaus reading the names out of the ‘Golden Book’. I was absolutely petrified that he possibly may not read out my name …. and then the sheer relief when he did! Phew!!!

  2. Mairead

    One day when I grow up and have real kids (and not try to substitute them with cats as I currently do) they will be told about St Nikolaus as he was a real Bishop.
    Although I would worry they would think their Dad was really St Nikolaus if he ever became a Bishop!

  3. *lol*
    I actually grew up without ever meeting St. Nicholas in person…maybe I’m lucky {but then, i can’t remember believing in Santa…we only had the Christkind bringing the presents while we had to wait until the bell rang that told us the Christkind was gone and we could come in to get our presents}.
    I have another Nikolaus story to share on my blog :), maybe you’d like to visit:
    thanks for making me chuckle,

  4. I’m now feeling very fortunate that I didn’t grow up in Germany. I have a feeling that I would have received birch quite often.

  5. Wolfgang

    It’s true that this is a possible St. Nikolaus Scenario and it’s truly the most gruesome imaginable. But in most modern German families this isn’t actually the case. This Scenario is mostly a remnanst from the past where children were raised differently. But there has been much change in child raising and usually the St. Nikolaus from nowadays is a really nice guy and the Krampus has been tamed or stays at home alltogether and is replaced by Angels. The sack is still used but not to take children away but to carry the presents.
    I know many partens that have had horrid Nikolaus encounters and decided never to do that to their own children and I don’t know even one child or people of my age (24) that has such bad memories about St. Nikolaus visiting them in fact they’re rather fond of him.

    With my Family St. Nikolaus was a very special day since my brother is named after the bringer of presents, and we had a lot of fun every time St. Nikolaus came along.

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