Sunday, December 07, 2008


Over the centuries since the birth of Christ, most cultures that celebrate Christmas have embraced a mythical figure who delivers gifts to good children. Before the Reformation, Saint Nikolaus day was celebrated on December 6th as Catholics revered him as the secret giver of gifts. Martin Luther wished to discourage the reverence of saints and needed a Christmas tradition for the new Protestant church. He moved the gift giving day to December 24th and named the Christkind, or Christ Child, as the secret benefactor. Christmas markets, once known as St. Nikolaus markets became Christkindl Markets, even in Catholic regions. These markets were often held in front of churches during the Christmas season.

Artists' depictions of the Christkind gradually changed from the baby Jesus to a sprite like angelic child who was still called the Christ Child. The city of Nuremberg, Germany produced tinsel angels and in 1933, a young girl in an angel costume opened the city’s Christmas Market for the first time. After the Second World War, Nuremberg’s tinsel angels became known as the Nuremberg Christkind. A young teenaged girl is still chosen to open the Christkindlmarkt in that city each year and Kitchener has followed the same tradition. It is also interesting to note that Kris Kindle and Kris Kringle are corruptions of the original name of the German gift-bringer Christkindl.

Our city is hosting its 12th annual Christkindl Market this weekend. Many similar markets are found in Europe. The market is held indoors and outdoors and vendors sell European style handcrafts and foods. On Thursday evening, people met in our downtown park for a carol sing with the Grand Philharmonic Choir. A candle-lit procession, led by Mary, Joseph and their donkey, marched from the park to the City Hall where where trumpets and church bells welcomed their arrival. The young Christkind, accompanied by two little angels, gave a reading from a balcony and the Christmas tree in the square was lighted.

It is bitterly cold this weekend with strong north winds and lots of fresh snow. The outdoor nativity with Mary, Joseph and two live donkeys is visited by the many people who brave the weather and come to the market. I enjoy this event and find it a nice contrast to the consumerism of the malls at this time of year. The emphasis on music, performances, crafts, good food, winter fun and community provides a more meaningful celebration of the season. I will post some more pictures from the market this month.

In much of the world Santa Claus has become a very commercialized secret gift giver who is unlikely to reward anyone with a lump of coal. Historical gift givers were more stern and judgmental of children's behaviour. In Latin America and other countries, the Three Kings bring gifts on January 6th.

Do your families celebrate other gift-giving traditions?


  1. Hi Ruth.....I love your seems more intimate, more personal......

    Sometimes we lose sight of what Christmas is about and I think that is sad.....

    My little grandchildren both go to a church school.....I shall watch them in the nativity takes place inside the church......every member of each family will be given an orange and a lighted candle at the end of the service......this for me is beyond words.......

  2. We're a pretty standard Christmas Morning type of family. But with two who now travel on Christmas Day, we often do it on some other day recently and pretend that it's The Day.

  3. I've never heard of Christkind celebrations. When we lived in Wisconsin, we learned that St. Nikolaus Day is a big deal there. It's rarely mentioned here in the southern US.

    When our children were young, we down-played Santa Claus as much as possible. Santa left only one gift for each of them. Everything else was under the tree from Mom and Dad.

  4. Ruth, lovely photos. My favorite is the donkey.

    I agree about too much consumerism associated with Christmas. I find it rather sad and takes away from what Christmas should really be about which is the celebration of the birth of Christ.

    Events such as the one you attended is what it should be all about.

    Stay warm

  5. Anonymous2:39 pm GMT-5

    This is very lovely post Ruth. I try to make gifts, but this year it may not be possible with my health..

  6. That was a very interesting post. I'm not much of a christmas person, we never celebrated it growing up so I struggle with the consumerism mentality.

  7. We used to be big into gift giving within my family but now we just enjoy getting toegether and clelbrating. Thanks for that interesting history!

  8. That was so interesting! Thanks for sharing it!

  9. I've never heard of Christkind before. But it certainly has a better "flavor" for the season than all the Santa and commercialism that is so broadly displayed. When our kids were school age, they attended a Christian day school and learned the true meaning of Christmas (Christ's birth). And we told our kids at a young age that Santa was more of a pagan's way of celebration during the same time of year. It wouldn't have been so bad/wrong if it had not been so commercialized.

  10. What a wonderful history lesson Ruth. I love the market idea and can imagine the sense of wonderment for the kids.

  11. Cheryl- I am glad you are able to enjoy such a meaningful time with your family.

    AC- We have to do some pretending this year too. But that's OK.

    NCMW- Santa was never a big deal in our home either, but stockings were hung and filled with treats like fruit,a bit of candy, and other small items...nothing pricey.

    Kim- The donkeys were very popular. It is possible to find activities that centre around a meaningful Christmas. The commercial call is very loud though.

    RW- I don't make gifts any more, but I try to support local crafters and businesses when possible.

    Lilly- Thanks for visiting and commenting. Those who do not celebrate Christmas must really wonder what all the fuss is about.

    Larry- I think many families have realized that gifts are not necessary but getting together is the best.

    Rondi- Thanks for visiting.

    Mary C- The Santa consumer craze is very new in the history of Christmas. But families can focus on what is important like you did.

    Jayne- The market is very unique and "Old World" in flavour.


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