Imagine the consternation of the followers
of Martin Luther when he determined in the sixteenth century that St.
Nicholas was robbing Christmas of its true meaning. Christmas, he told
them, was the time to honor Christ.
The followers of his doctrine lost little
time in replacing the Catholic saint with their own gift giver,
Christkindt was an angelic figure without
gender who would bring gifts and adorn the tree on Christmas Eve. Pictured
as a radiant figure in flowing white with tiny golden wings, Christkindt
would enter the Home Page through a door or win - dow left open for the visit.
Customs varied from region to region and
in some Christkindt was said to come in secret during the night; and in
others early in the evening to trim the tree. Gifts of gingerbread and
other sweets were left for the children.
As time went on, the influence of St.
Nicholas reappeared, not as a bishop in his priestly robes, but in a cloak
wrapped around his body to shield against the cold. It was he who
accompanied Christkindt on his rounds because, as mothers told their
children, the Angel was too young to travel alone.
Together the holy pair would visit each
Home Page and test the children on their prayers and behavior; then leaving
their gifts would continue on their way.
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