Welcome to a more or less Celtic Reconstructionist blog, where love of the Old Gods is still strong

Donnerstag, 6. Dezember 2012

Yuletide Blogging: St. Nicolas' Day

Today, we celebrate St. Nicolas' Day. As I'll be going into more detail on the origins of St. Nicolas and his similarities and differences to figures such as Knecht Ruprecht and Santa Claus, today I'd like to share with you German customs as well as a poem that my grandma likes to quote.

On the eve of December 6th, German children place a polished boot on their doorstep (in my family, it used to be a slipper, but boots are the traditional footwear). On waking up the next morning, they find their boot filled with candies and chocolates if they were good all year. My dad used to give me a Rute, that is birch twigs, which are traditionally given to bad children (sometimes, a piece of coal is also given in addition) - however, mine used to be adorned with candy ;-) Now that I don't live at home anymore, my family sends me presents with self-made cookies and chocolates every year.

a traditional Nikolausschuh (St. Nicolas' boot)

On top of the chocolates you find in your boots, you're quite often also given little chocolate St. Nicolas figures by friends, teachers or employers.
While the holiday celebrates a Christian saint, I like it a lot and will also celebrate it with my children one day, because it reminds us to give to others and share what we've got. However, I'll downplay the good child - bad child part.

On days like St. Nicolas Day, my grandma likes to quote a poem that's become very dear to me and that I'd love to share with you.
The poem, called "Knecht Ruprecht", was published by the German poet Theodor Storm in 1862. It talks about Knecht Ruprecht ("Knecht" means about the same as "servant"), who walks through the winter woods on his way to bring gifts to good children and punish those who have been bad. In this sense, he is similar to  the figure of St. Nicolas.
Here's the poem in its English translation; for those of you who can read German, a line-by-line translation can be found here

From out the forest I now appear,

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

For at the top of every tree

are golden lights for all to see;

and there from Heaven’s gate on high

I saw our Christ-child in the sky.

And in among the darkened trees,

a loud voice it was that called to me:

‘Knecht Ruprecht, old fellow,’ it cried,

‘hurry now, make haste, don’t hide!

All the candles have now been lit --

Heaven’s gate has opened wide!

Both young and old should now have rest

away from cares and daily stress;

and when tomorrow to earth I fly

“it’s Christmas again!” will be the cry.’

And then I said: ‘O Lord so dear.

My journey’s end is now quite near;

but to this town* I’ve still to go,

Where the children are good, I know.’

‘But have you then that great sack?’

 ‘I have,’ I said, ‘it’s on my back.

For apples, almonds, fruit and nuts

For God-fearing children are a must.’

‘And is that cane there by your side?’

‘The cane’s there too,’ I did reply;

but only for those, those naughty ones,

who have it applied to their backsides.’

The Christ-child spoke: ‘Then that’s all right!

My loyal servant, go with God this night!’

From out the forest I now appear;

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

Now speak, what is there here to be had?

Are there good children, are there bad?

 a traditional Knecht Ruprecht walking through the winter wood

Tomorrow, I shall discuss Christmas decorations and how we can find pagan alternatives to deck our halls. 

Blessed be,



Mittwoch, 5. Dezember 2012

Yuletide Blogging: Krampusnacht

Hello and welcome to the first installment of this year’s Yuletide posts! In the following weeks, I will be participating in both the Yuletide Blog Festival of Emily over at wyrdanglosaxonpriestess.wordpress.com as well as in the 21 Days of Yule by The Domestic Witch. Due to my work on my PhD and an urgent assignment of the publishing house I’m working for, I won’t be blogging every day, but you can still expect a few posts each week. My main focus will be on German Christmas and Yule traditions, as well as my family traditions.  

Tonight, in many parts of Bavaria (Germany), as well as in parts of Austria, Krampusnacht is celebrated. This custom, which goes back some hundred years, has weird creatures by the name of “Krampus” proceed through the villages at night. 

 A traditional Krampus mask.

These creatures, whose name means “claw” in English, are clad in black or brown fur coats with cloven hoofs (thus we could assume that they were meant to resemble the Devil). The fact that they wear wooden masks adorned with horns also points to this interpretation. Krampusse also carry bells or chains to rattle, as well as ruten – these are bundles of branches that nasty children are swatted with. Sometimes, a Krampus can be seen carrying a sack or some similar container on his back to carry away evil children, either to devour them or to bring them to Hell. The Krampus is thus a companion to St. Nicolas, who brings presents to good children on December 6th.

In my hometown, which is situated in the Harz mountains in Lower Saxony, we do not know the Krampus at all. However, my great-grandma, who was born in Andernach in Rhineland-Palatinate, used to tell me of quite a similar creature. She used to tell me of the “Muffi”, a furry, evil, chain-rattling creature that accompanies St. Nicolas that would catch and take away children who’d behaved badly. In contrast to the Krampusse, though, the Muffi could show up throughout Christmas time.

2 Krampusse together with the Saint.

 My great-grandma would also occasionally impersonate the Muffi – she’d stomp through the hall towards the living-room where I’d be playing and, wearing a furry glove, she’d throw some sweets into the room. Needless to say, she used to scare me a lot with it, and I did believe in the Muffi and St. Nicolas for a very long time.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out whether there was another, older custom of the Muffi pre-dating the one I experienced. Likewise, I’m not sure which functions the Krampusse originally fulfilled.
However, I’ve experienced a lot of the customs revolving around St. Nicolas, whose day we’re celebrating tomorrow. So tune in again tomorrow for a post on my family’s customs and some German poetry!

Blessed be,