St Nicholas is out and about in the region What’s it like at the festive season when you’re St Nicholas?

Region · On 6 December, St Nicholas performers are once again out and about in the area, giving children plenty of presents. He is often used to wean toddlers off their dummy, and he actually gets along quite well without his bishop’s rod. But St Nicholas also has to be quick-witted.

 Cris Mas at work as St Nicholas

Cris Mas at work as St Nicholas

Foto: privat

To meet the real St Nicholas, just once in your lifetime – some event organisers and private individuals in the region are passionate about making this children's dream come true. There are many internet sites offering to provide you with a St Nicholas for the family living room, sometimes for a rather steep flat fee. Depending on the costume and credibility (for example an old man with a real beard) the price can reach several hundred euros. But you can also find Nicholas performers in our area who have made the role their own and who embody it with real passion for a few days a year.

One of them is Jörg Quiske, who goes from family to family as Cris-Mas to keep children believing in St Nicholas. He reports how after one of his missions he was about to walk to his car in his garb when a horde of children spotted him on the street and shouted loudly, "There's St Nicholas." "What are you going to do now?" he said. "You can’t possibly let the children see St Nicholas getting into a car. He flies through the sky with reindeer on a sleigh." Luckily, he always had some chocolate in his St Nicholas bag, so he could give the children presents. Afterwards, he says, they ran away and he was able to quickly get into his car. "You must never lose your composure and step outside of your role,” says Quiske.

Find creative excuses quickly

This includes always being quick-witted and, above all, reacting ad hoc. Once the spell is broken, the children probe with all their questions: “How did you get here?” “With my reindeer.” “Oh yes, where are they? Let's go out and have a look,” the eager children immediately wanted to rush out and look. Quiske quickly had to find creative excuses: “Right now they’re in the stable of a farmer around the corner and are being fed.”

The biggest challenge he has faced - in what have actually only been two years as St. Nicholas - was an assignment in a family with a so-called star child, who had to be included at the request of the parents. Star children are children who died before, during or shortly after birth. “As St Nicholas, you get involved in some tough stuff. I didn't know how to handle the challenge at first,” Quiske recalls.

Then he came up with the idea of a luminous star. Together with the two other children, the family moved very close to each other, and everyone put their hand on the star. The children understood that this star was now a connection to their deceased sibling: “We were all crying our eyes out and I am so glad that I did it after all,” Quiske says with relief. The father even had to hold on to Nicholas’ bishop’s rod because the saint was so moved.

The distinction between St. Nicholas and Father Christmas is very important to Quiske and to his colleagues. Ingo Dapprich and Alfred Lemmer are dressed as classic bishops and give presents to children as St Nicholas on 6 December. "People have only ever heard of Father Christmas or Santa Claus and the traditional bishop is underrepresented," notes Dapprich.

Wrapped in a long cloak, with a mitre on his head, the crosier in one hand and the golden book in the other, Dapprich roams the region during the St Nicholas period, giving sweet presents to children in day-care centres or at Krewelshof. Lemmer even owns an original bishop's robe from the monastery of Sankt Augustin. Although it is not the classic red colour, but rather greenish, he often hears from the children: "Yes, that's the real St Nicholas". Unlike Quiske and Dapprich, however, Lemmer is not on duty as St Nicholas for a larger area, but only for the Sankt Augustin Dance Sports Club.

But this year, COVID requirements are once again hitting St Nicholas hard: Lemmer wants to be responsible and take a step back because of his age and the risk of infection, and with a heavy heart Quiske also had to cancel his bookings. "The children don't know beforehand that I'm coming, but it's tough for the parents," he says. In the run-up to the event, he is in close contact with them and they report on the good and less praiseworthy deeds of their offspring. After all, the children take an oath on St Nicholas' Golden Book and swear to do better.

St Nicholas was often used as a tooth fairy and in matters concerning the use of the dummy. But neither he nor his colleagues are mean to the children and they don’t have the sinister sidekick Knecht Ruprecht with them: "We don't want to scare the children," says Lemmer. Dapprich and Quiske also affirm that parents might be disappointed if they had expected their children to be scolded.

Original: Scarlet Schmitz

Translation: Jean Lennox

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