Germany is a haven for exciting and interesting traditions, especially during Christmas. There is Saint Nikolaus and his various sidekicks including the terrifying Krampus, decorating village Christmas trees, keeping a flame from the Bethlehem candle lit, visiting Christmas markets, and lighting the beautiful advent wreaths and more. One tradition that you may not be aware of is “Christkind” and the wonderful role this character plays on December 24th.
What is Christkind?
During the late 16th and early 17th century, Martin Luther declared it blasphemous to idolize saints other than Jesus himself. He insisted the Christ Child brought the gifts to children, instead of a Saint Nikolaus. Hence, the Christkind was born – and brought gifts on December 24th, the last day of Advent. Christkind, which means Christ child, is a representation of Jesus as a child, not an infant. Traditionally, the child was male with blond hair and wings. Over time the image has evolved and is mostly represented by a teenage girl wearing a long curly blond wig with a crown and a dress of white and gold with angelic wings. You can meet this beautiful figure at the Nuremberg Christmas market. She has been elected every two years since 1969. She is an important figure for the village and has many duties during her reign.
How it works
My neighbors gave me a rundown of how Christkind works in their family. On Christmas eve, the family closes the doors leading into the living area, where the Christmas tree also resides. The children will write a note to Christkind and slide it under the door. After some time, the parents will tell the children they hear a bell ringing, or will have someone ring a bell to signal that Christkind has come and gone. The children enter the living area and find the presents left by Christkind. Children never see the Christkind in person, and parents tell them that Christkind will not come and bring presents if they are curious and try to spot it.
Santa or Christkind?
I was a little nervous what the conversations would look like after Christmas in our village. My kids had a visit from Santa, but every other child had a visit from Christkind. When I asked my kids why they thought that was, my daughter explained, “Mom, they wrote their letters to Christkind and we wrote ours to Santa!”. There wasn’t any further conversation needed and that continue to be die hard Santa fans. We continue to believe in the magic of Santa, but appreciate the angel Christkind and the traditions it stands for.