There is great anticipation when children in Bavaria clean their shoes and put them outside the door on December 5. Because that night, St. Nicholas comes and fills them with sweets, nuts and small gifts. This custom goes back to the generosity of St. Nicholas of Myra, who is known as the patron saint of children.
The generous bishop St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas of Myra is a historical figure from the fourth century. As a bishop in modern-day Turkey, he gained a reputation as a particularly generous and child-loving person. Traditionally, St. Nicholas visits children in Bavaria on December 6 to reward them for their good deeds over the past year - and to reprimand them for not-so-good deeds. Our image of St. Nicholas is characterized by his usually red cloak, the crosier, the beard and the golden book.
The Krampus - St. Nicholas' creepy companion
In Bavaria, St. Nicholas almost never travels alone. He is often accompanied by a sinister figure: the Krampus. Krampus, also known as Knecht Ruprecht, Klausen or Klaubauf, represents evil and darkness, and his terrifying appearance and his rod, with which he symbolically chastises naughty children, have frightened many generations of children. In many places, Krampus parades are also held around St. Nicholas Day, where people in disguise parade through the streets accompanied by the loud noise of cowbells and frighten passers-by.
St. Nicholas vs. Santa Claus
In contrast to St. Nicholas, who goes back to the historical Bishop Nicholas of Myra and distributes his gifts during Advent, Santa Claus is a comparatively modern figure who distributes his gifts on Christmas Eve. His red and white robe with the typical pointed cap and his role as the bringer of gifts can be traced back to North American influences.
Why does St. Nicholas come on December 5 in Bavaria?
In Bavaria, St. Nicholas Day has a special feature: here, St. Nicholas arrives on the evening of December 5. This custom goes back to the old church belief that the new day begins at sunset. Therefore, St. Nicholas starts his journey as soon as it gets dark and is therefore on his way at exactly the right time.
St. Nicholas Day in Bavaria is therefore more than just a day of presents. It is a day of tradition and reflection, on which children are reminded of the generosity and mercy of St. Nicholas. His company makes it a little spooky and even more impressive.
Meet St. Nicholas at the Christmas markets in Bavaria
If you are in Bavaria during the Advent season, you have numerous opportunities to meet St. Nicholas in person. Here are some of the Christmas markets you can visit:
(01.12.2023-23.12.2023) • daily: 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. • Food and drinks: until 9:30 p.m.
The Coburger Weihnachtsmarkt is considered one of the most beautiful in the whole of southern Germany. On Sundays and December 6, the Christ Child and St. Nicholas visit the Christmas market and hand out sweet surprises to all guests.
(25.11.2023-21.12.2023) • Monday through Saturday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. • Sunday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
The Aschaffenburger Weihnachtsmarkt is known for its festively decorated Christmas stalls. On December 5 at 6 p.m., Santa Claus visits the Christmas market and delights visitors with his presence.
(27.11.2023-23.12.2023) • Sunday through Wednesday: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. • Thursday through Saturday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
The traditional Christkindlmarkt in Regensburg is located in the heart of the historic old town. You can meet St. Nicholas here every Wednesday from 2 pm.