If you thought Father Christmas delivering gifts to the children of the world in one night was an improbable fairytale, wait till you hear about the Christkind.
In Germany the Christmas gifts aren’t delivered by a fat, white bearded man on a sledge pulled by reindeer. Here, they’re delivered magically, by an angel.
The Christkind, or Christ child, doesn’t just deliver to millions of German households, it also manages to deliver to kids in Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy’s South Tirol area, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovakia, Hungary, parts of northeastern France, Upper Silesia in Poland, parts of Hispanic America, certain areas of southern Brazil and in Acadiana region of Louisiana. This angel gets around.
Even more improbably though, the angel delivers the presents in Germany, while the kids leave the room for less than 15 minutes. Santa’s got nothing on the Christkind when it comes to speed!
The tradition was started in the 16-17th century by Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation. Protestants adopted the Christ Child or Christkindl, as the main Christmas gift bringer, and changed the gift-giving date from December 6th (now Nicolaus) to Christmas Eve. The Lutheran Church wanted to promote Christ as the children’s gift-giver to draw attention to the child for whom Christmas was named after. The Christkind was adopted in Catholic areas of Germany in the 19th Century.
Only half a day of magic
The tradition on Christmas Eve goes a little like this: The day starts out quite normally. A lot of people go to work in the morning as it’s not a public holiday. Even the shops and Christmas markets are open till about 2pm, so you can catch up on some last-minute Christmas shopping.
After that, you’ll practically be able to hear the tumbleweed blowing around the city centers until Tuesday 27th. Everything is closed – apart from the odd kiosk or gas station.
Once the working parent(s) have finished for the day, the family gathers around the Christmas tree to get ready for the Bescherung – gift giving. The kids are ushered out of the room and then after a few minutes a little bell tinkles to let everyone know the magic has happened and the angel has delivered the goods. Kids are told that if they try and ‘see’ the angel at work, they won’t get any gifts – enough of an incentive to stop prying eyes. The kids come back in the room to find a pile of presents has miraculously appeared under the tree.
Obviously, in our globally connected world, the Christkind is coming up against some serious competition from Father Christmas, or the Weihnachstman, thanks to movies and advertising. But the Catholics are fighting back and traditionalists are advocating for the tradition of the Christkind as a “beautiful means of restoring the true meaning of Christmas.”
We know it’s all a load of baloney, but who do you think would win in a Christmas face-off – the Christkind or Santa? Let’s check the stats to see:
Tell us if you agree – we’re biased.