Have you ever compared the companions of Saint Nicholas in different countries? His entourage reveals just how closely knit worldwide Christmas traditions are. The group that accompanies Saint Nicholas appears as a combination of both good and evil however, the characters that accompany Saint Nicholas during his travel, to deliver the gifts, vary from place to place. Though the saint himself is represented as a benevolent patron of the good, he is often accompanied by some evil figures. Due to this, while most children rejoice in the group's arrival and eagerly wait for their gifts, the naughty ones fear the harsher companions of the Saint Nicholas. The parents often scare their children by these not-so-good characters to make them obedient and disciplined. Hence, these characters balance the concept of a generous Christmas gift bringer with strict disciplinarians. Know more about this aspect of Saint Nicholas's group in the following section.
Companions Of Saint Nicholas
The white horse, often called Schimmel, Amerigo, is ridden by Sinterklaas, of Netherlands, during Christmas. Sinterklaas goes around the country, visiting schools and homes. Also, in certain parts of Belgium, Poland and Germany, the white horse is seen with St. Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland visits the children, with baskets full of treats and toys, on a donkey.
Angels are considered to be the record keepers of Saint Nicholas. They travel with the saint in Belgium, Poland, Germany, Ukraine and Austria. They carry with them a large book to assist Saint in giving gifts to children. According to Czech and Slovak tradition, the angels protect children from the evil effects of the devil.
Krampus is a scary figure accompanying Saint Nicholas in Austria, southern Germany and some Eastern European regions as well. Dressed in fur and fearsome with a set of horns and a long tongue, he is often bound in chains to depict that he is under saint's control. He causes no harm to people but children find his appearance frightening and hide from him.
The devil is usually chained and accompanied by an angel to protect the children from him. As per the Czech and Slovak traditions, this shaggy furred devil with a long red tongue, horns and tail, has a staff and makes threats of punishment.
Ruprecht is considered to be the most popular attendant in Germany. Being a servant as well as a helper, his face is generally covered in soot as he goes down the chimney, distributing gifts. For the children who have been good throughout the year, he carries a sack of goodies while a strong rod for the naughty kids.
The character of Zwarte Piet, popularly called 'Black Peter', originated in Netherlands and he accompanies Saint Nicholas to help him. He travels over the rooftops into the homes with Sinterklaas to keep a check on children's behavior.
Regarded as Saint Nicholas's companion in Switzerland, Schmutzli, dressed in brown, is usually the means by which parents threaten their children for their misconduct. He carries a sack and a switch and, it is said that, he beats naughty children with the switch and puts them in the sack to eat them in the woods. However, he never uses the switch and the sack and just scares kids with them.
Next time, recognize the companions correctly when they come with Saint Nicholas this Christmas!