All posts by Dorris Keeven-Franke

Public Historian, Author, Archivist and Curator.

Weihnachtsmann

Today he is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white bearded man—sometimes with glasses—wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children. This image became popular in the United States in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.

In 1821, the book A New-year’s present, to the little ones from five to twelve was published

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Thomas Nast

in New York. It contained an anonymous poem describing Santeclaus on a reindeer sleigh, bringing presents to children. Some modern ideas of Santa Claus grew after the anonymous publication of the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (better known today as “The Night Before Christmas”) in the  Sentinel on 23 December 1823 by Thomas Nast.

Clement Clarke Moore later claimed authorship, though some scholars contest persuasively that Henry Livingston, Jr. (who died nine years before Moore’s claim) was the author. St. Nick is described as being “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” with “a little round belly”, that “shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly”, in spite of which the “miniature sleigh” and “tiny reindeer” still indicate that he is physically diminutive. The reindeer  were also named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem (Dunder and Blixem came from the old Dutch words for thunder and lightning, which were later changed to the more German sounding Donner and Blitzen).

By 1845 ‘Kris Kringle’ was a common variant of Santa in parts of the U.S. A magazine article from 1853, describing American Christmas customs , refers to children hanging up their stockings on Christmas Eve for ‘a fabulous personage’ whose name varies: in Pennsylvania he is usually called ‘Krishkinkle’ but in New York he is ‘St. Nicholas’ or ‘Santa Claus’. The author quotes Moore’s poem in its entirety, saying that its descriptions apply to Krishkinkle too

From The German Way: Nikolaustag – 6. Dezember
On the night of December 5 (in some places, the evening of Dec. 6), in small communities

Weihnachtsman
Photo by James Martin

in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas, who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children. Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly scare the children. Although Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht carries eine Rute (a switch), he only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts to the children. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in northern Germany). As early as 1555, St. Nicholas brought gifts on Dec. 6, the only “Christmas” gift-giving time during the Middle Ages, and Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus was a more ominous figure. In Alpine Europe Krampus is still a scary, devil-like figure. The custom found in Austria and Bavaria also happens around December 5 or 6, but it also can take place at various times during November or December, depending on the community.

Pelznickel is the fur-clad Santa of the Palatinate (Pfalz) in northwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald region of Baden-Württemberg. The German-American Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was born in Landau in der Pfalz (not the Bavarian Landau). It is said that he borrowed at least a couple of features from the Palatine Pelznickel he knew as a child in creating the image of the American Santa Claus—the fur trim and boots. In some North American German communities Pelznickel became “Belsnickle.” (The literal translation of Pelznickel is “fur-Nicholas.”) The Odenwald Pelznickel is a bedraggled character who wears a long coat, boots, and a big floppy hat. He carries a sack full of apples and nuts that he gives to the children. In various areas of the Odenwald, Pelznickel also goes by the names of Benznickel, Strohnickel, and Storrnickel.

Der Weihnachtsmann is the name for Santa Claus or Father Christmas in most of Germany today. The term used to be confined mostly to the northern and mostly Protestant areas of Germany, but has spread across the country in recent years. Around Christmastime in Berlin, Hamburg, or Frankfurt, you’ll see Weihnachtsmänner on the street or at parties in their red and white costumes, looking a lot like an American Santa Claus. You can even rent a Weihnachtsmann in most larger German cities.

The term “Weihnachtsmann” is a very generic German term for Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus. The German Weihnachtsmann is a fairly recent Christmas tradition having little if any religious or folkloric background. In fact, the secular Weihnachtsmann only dates back to around the mid-19th century. As early as 1835, Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the words to “Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann” — still a popular German Christmas carol. The first image depicting a bearded Weihnachtsmann in a hooded, fur mantle was a woodcut (Holzschnitt) by the Austrian painter Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871). Von Schwind’s first 1825 drawing was entitled “Herr Winter.” A second woodcut series in 1847 bore the title “Weihnachtsmann” and even showed him carrying a Christmas tree, but still had little resemblance to the modern Weihnachtsmann. Over the years, the Weihnachtsmann became a rough mixture of St. Nicholas and Knecht Ruprecht. A 1932 survey found that German children were split about evenly along regional lines between believing in either the Weihnachtsmann or the Christkind. But today a similar survey would show the Weihnachtsmann winning out in almost all of Germany.

For all the children young and old…No matter what you call him… Just Remember…

BELIEVE!

 

 

 

 

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Weihnachten

Christmas  /  Weihnachten  (pronounced Vi – nock – ten)  The Christmas holidays are a time for tradition! So much of our customs have been passed down for generations from our German ancestors. This month we gathered just a few and packed them into this christmas-treenewsletter just for you! We hope you enjoy and invite you to add your own (on our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/mo.germans/) and share the JOY with everyone. We wish you the happiest of holidays, from the First day of Advent to Three Kings Day!  Enjoy! Here is our list of some of our favorite things… Advent Calendar (Adventskalender), Advent Wreath (Adventskranz), Christ Child (Christkindl), Christmas pyramids (Weihnachtspyramiden), Christmas Trees (Tannenbaum) , Cookies (Springerle), Nutcrakers (Nussknacker),, Santa Claus (St. Nicholas). There are so many more, we can’t possibly share them all in this newsletter! We’ve packed this newsletter full and hope you enjoy the Springerle Cookies and the Calendar of Christmas Events we’ve packed into the end!

The Advent Wreath Adventskranz is adorned with four candles, one of which is lit on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The first Advent wreath, which appeared in the mid-19th century, had 4 larger candles and 19 smaller ones. Each day one additional candle was lit to help the children count the days until Christmas. Today only the four larger candles remain. The tradition of a ring of light existed among the Germanic tribes many centuries before the celebration of Advent. It is believed that fewer candles were lit with each progressive lighting to represent the shortening of the days until the solstice, at which time the Julfest celebrated the return of light. (Incidentally, the English word yule is a cognate with the Germanic Jul). The Advent Calendar – Adventskalender is a German invention that was originally designed to involve children in the festivities leading up to Christmas. The calendars are usually made of cardboard and have 24 small windows or flaps, one of which is opened on each day leading up to Christmas. Behind each window is a Christmas scene or motif. Nowadays, calendars may contain chocolate or candy behind each window, and sometimes even small toys. The Advent calendar is a more recent invention of modern capitalism. Originally, families would mark the 24 days of December preceding Christmas with a chalk line on the wall. The first hand-crafted Advent calendars were produced in the mid-19th century; the first printed calendar appeared in Munich in 1903. Eventually the custom was exported all over the world.

Santa Claus –  St. NicholasSt. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th in Germany. On the evening before the 6th, children place their newly cleaned shoes in front of theshoes door in the hope that Nicholas might fill them with nuts, fruits, chocolate, and sweets. If the children have behaved well, their wishes will be fulfilled. Children who have caused mischief will receive only a switch, which symbolizes punishment for their bad deeds. The real St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century and was the bishop of a region located in nastsantBW150present-day Turkey. Through stories and legends associated with him, he became known as the protector of children and the anonymous bestower of gifts upon them. Over the centuries, the life and deeds of St. Nicholas were celebrated on the saint’s appointed day, the 6th of December. By the Middle Ages, the observance had already become a celebration of children and a day on which they received gifts. It was the German Martin Luther who sought to sever the connection between the saint and the gift-giving celebration for children, because in his Reformation theology, there was no place for the glorification of saints. Rather than abolishing the custom outright, Luther replaced the persona of Nicholas with that of the Christ child; in his Protestant teachings, not Nicholas but rather now the baby Jesus was attributed with bringing the children gifts, and not on the saint’s day but rather at Christmas. Today in many regions of Germany, not Saint Nick, but rather the Christkindl leaves Christmas gifts for children on December 24th.

Christmas TreeTannenbaum – Born in 1796, Karl Follen grew up in Hesse-Darmstadt, one of the scores of principalities that made up the Germany of that day. It was there that, as a boy, he experienced each year the magic of the brilliantly-lit Christmas tree. In 1813 Follen began law studies at Giessen University, but soon interrupted his studies to Tannenbaumenlist with his older brother in the Hessian volunteers fighting Napoleon. He was caught up in revolutionary activities, and  fearing for his liberty and even his life, he fled from Giessen to Jena, then to Switzerland, and finally to Paris. There he met the Marquis de Lafayette, who urged him to go to America. So in 1824, at age twenty-eight, Follen began his career in America. During his first year he taught German and gymnastics at the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts. The year 1830 was a banner year for Follen, as he became a U.S. citizen, and was appointed to a full-time chair in German language and literature at Harvard, and their first child was born. Follen wanted his son ”little Charley” to experience the same magic of the lighted Christmas tree that had enchanted him as a boy in Germany. When Charley turned five, the Follens set up a tree in their home and invited little Charley’s friends and their families to a party, at which the unveiling of the tree would be a special surprise—doubly so, because up to this time Christmas trees were unheard of in Puritan New England. They also invited a distinguished guest for this occasion, Harriet Martineau, a widely-read British author who was traveling in America.  She was in on the surprise, and came early to help with the preparations. She also took careful note of the event as it unfolded in the Follen household that evening, and subsequently published her account. “I was present,” she wrote, “at the introduction into the new country of the spectacle of the German Christmas tree. In 1834, Karl Follen’s brother Paul, had emigrated to Dutzow, Missouri, with his brother-in-law Friedrich Muench, co-founders of the Giessen Emigration Society. Undoubtedly the custom of the Tannenbaum had also made its way all the way to the Far West frontier as well!

And to top off our gift to you, we are sharing our springerle cookiesfavorite Christmas Cookie – the Springerle – with you as well!

Springerle Cookies

For eating quality, ease and quality of prints this recipe is just perfection! What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 teaspoon baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn) or baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar (1 1/2 #)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of anise (if substituting fruit flavored oils, use 3 teaspoons)
  • 2 lb. box sifted cake flour (Swansdown or Softasilk)
  • grated rind of orange or lemon – optional (enhances flavor of the traditional anise or the citrus flavors)
  • more flour as needed

Dissolve hartshorn in milk and set aside. Beat eggs till thick and lemon-colored (10-20 minutes). Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the softened butter. Add the hartshorn and milk, salt, preferred flavoring, and grated rind of lemon or orange, if desired. Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remainder of the 2 lbs. of flour to make stiff dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a flat pancake approximately 1/2 inch thick. Roll thinner or thicker based on the depth of the carving in the cookie press you are using. Shallow carvings will need to be thinner while deeper carvings will need to be thicker. SpringerleFlour your cookie mold for each and every pressing. Press the mold firmly and straight down into the dough, then lift, cut and place the formed cookie onto a flat surface to dry. (I like to put the formed cookies directly onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, but you may put them on a countertop or tabletop covered with flour sack cloths if you do not have enough cookie sheets.)

Do not cover the cookies while they dry. The goal of drying is to set the design. Let the cookies dry at least 12 hours;24 hours is best. Larger cookies and warm humid weather may require longer drying times. Cookies that are not dried long enough will not retain the beautiful designs, but will taste fine.

Bake on greased or baker’s parchment-lined cookie sheets at 255° to 325° till barely golden on the bottom, 10-15 minutes or more, depending on size of cookie.Store in airtight containers or in zipper bags in the freezer. They keep for months, and improve with age. Yield 3 to 12 dozen.

And to tie up our gift for you, here are some holiday events to enjoy this holiday!

November 29 – GERMAN CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS – Speaker: Dorris Keeven-Franke  St. Louis Community College Continuing Education – Missouri History Museum 10:30 am Free For More info http://mohistory.org/upcoming

mouth-watering-german-christmas-traditions-we-can-2-22882-1417195346-0_dblbigDecember 1 – St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities – ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY Info 636-530-1010 or stl4stuttgart.com

December 8  – Bayern Verein – ANNUAL CHRISTMAS DINNER & DANCE German Cultural Society Hall Info 314-381-2814 or 314-518-6327

December 9 – German Cultural Society/German School Assoc – WEIHNACHTSFEIER – German Cultural Society Hall – Germanstl.org

December 9  – KRISTKINDL MARKT Blumenhof Winery, 13699 MO-94, Dutzow, MO 63342, USA (map) 800 – 419 – 2245

ChristkindlmarktDecember 10 – St. Charles County German Heritage – WEIHNACHTSFEIR  –  RSVP 636.928.8056 $25 per person

December 10- German Cultural Society WEIHNACHTSGOTTESDIENST (German Christmas Service) German Cultural Hall  Peace Lutheran Church Info 314-771-8368 Germanstl.org

December 11 & 12 – OLD FASHIONED HOLIDAY STROLL – Zumwalt Fort & Heald House – City of O’Fallon $3 per person – https://www.ofallon.mo.us/celebration-of-lights

Christmas in the Heald House

December 31 – German Cultural Society – SILVESTERFEIER (New Years Eve Dance) Germanstl.org

We want to wish all of you a very happy and memorable Christmas, and may the coming year be filled with PEACE! LOVE! And JOY!

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Dorris Keeven-Franke, Executive Director

Missouri Germans Consortium   https://mo-germans.com/

Email: MissouriGermans@gmail.com

Bossel in Bay

Join us in Bay. Tour the historic Bay Mercantile Store and meet others with the help of the very social game of Bossel on Sunday, November 5, 2017 from 12 noon to 4 pm. What is Bossel? It is played by Germans who live in the northwest of Germany at the Northern Sea. It is very popular there and the people of East Frisia dream of Bossel becoming an Olympic sport in the very distant future. The game is played on small streets with round Bossel balls. We will have four teams Red, Blue, Yellow and Black as we have four balls. The distance from start to end is about one mile. The goal is to be the team that reaches the end, with the fewest number of throws. Each throw ends and is counted from the point where the Bossel ball comes to a standstill on the street. Join one of the Bossel ball teams, all ages, sexes, incomes, and hair colors are welcome! Or simply accompany the players. German refreshments are provided during the game to protect participants, both mentally and physically, against the chill of a November day in Missouri! Warm-up after Bossel, enjoy bread & soup and an Award Ceremony for the Missourian Bossel Heroes.
Our Meeting point is the former Bay Mercantile in Bay, located on County Route K, just south of the intersection with Fowler Road. Bay is south of Hermann Missouri in the very heart of Gasconade County.  Also that day you can Tour the Bay Mercantile and residence currently in the state of renovation. View numerous historical artifacts and learn more about the process of historic preservation. Google Maps for Bay Missouri

This day is planned in memory of Scott Ruffner, who passed away unexpectedly in May of this year. We will gather to celebrate what would have been his 67th birthday on November 5 in the Bay Mercantile store. It was Scott’s dream to establish a museum about Bay in the former Bay Mercantile and post office building, which he bought for this purpose. He hoped to recruit both volunteers and funding to make this a reality. This restoration project continues with support from his friends and family!
Join us in Bay.

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Peter Roloff playing Bossel