Anyone have children? Well, depending on where in Europe you are located, children will most eagerly be looking forward to either Dec 5 or Dec 6.
That's the so called Saint Nicholas Day ... the day when St. Nicholas comes to visit the children. Depending on the region, this heathen tradition may vary. In some regions, he simply drops off sweets and gifts, in other regions, he asks for the Christmas Eve wishlist for presents, and in yet other regions, he figures out whether the children were good or naughty, and if naughty, then according to legend they are whipped.
In most of Europe, Dec. 6 was even considered the main day of gift giving, until the Christian reformers came into the picture, and deferred the time of gift giving to Dec. 24 - eve of Christmas. So, now Dec 24 - 26 are bank holidays, and 25+26 are public holidays, in Germany, and most of Europe.
In most of Germany, the night of the 5th to the 6th is the time that all children are very anxious. Hoping to receive the gifts of the Nikolaus, as he is called in German, they put out their stockings or boots at the end of their beds or outside the bedroom door, and if they had been good throughout the year (and all the children are good!) then the boots and stockings will be filled with Christmas cookies, sweets, dried and fresh fruits and numerous gifts. As he comes in the middle of the night, they don't actually ever see him, nor are they supposed to.
In some places, Nikolaus is also accompanied by some evil figure, depicting the devil, e.g. Knecht Ruprecht in Middle Germany or in the Region of Austria, Hungary, Czech, Northern Italy, Croatia, Rumania, Serbia, the so-called Krampussen, who will frighten all the naughty children on Dec. 5 evening, while Nikolaus will come as the rescuer on Dec. 6 and reward the children with gifts.
The Nikolaus tradition is of special significance in the Netherlands. Some time in mid November, Sinterklaas arrives with a ship from Spain. Parts of Netherlands once was a colony of Spain. Sinterklaas, as he is called in Netherlands, then docks at most of the Dutch ports, and visits the cities around the ports. Dec. 5 is the official Sinterklaas Day in the Netherlands.
Christmas Markets in Germany
Speaking of Christmas traditions, has anyone been to the German Christmas Markets. They are superb. Have a look at Christmas Markets in Germany
. If you click in the green column on the left side, you'll see some great Christmas Markets in Germany, which is the place to be for young and old throughout Germany, and some neighboring countries.