20.11.2005 21:14 - St. Nick Cometh
A question that I get asked a lot of the time is "Steve, why are the Germans so orderly?". Is it the schooling? Is it the National Service? No. The reason that Germans are so orderly is Christmas. Let me explain.
Germany, like most of Europe, actually has two separate holidays around Christmas time. The first is Christmas as we know it, with the tree and everything. The reason for this similarity is that the Germans invented it, and it only became popular in England when Queen Victoria and her husband Albert, who were both as German as krakauer sausages, imported the trappings of what we refer to as "a traditional christmas" - the tree, the carols (most of which were originally in german, such as "Silent Night", "Oh Christmas Tree" etc). The big difference is that, firstly, you don't get your presents on Christmas Day, you get them on Christmas Eve when you come back from the church. This saves a lot of parental agony and lost sleep compared to the English version. The second difference is that the presents are not delivered by Santa, but by the "Christkind". That's right. In german-speaking countries, your presents are personally delivered by Baby Jesus himself. The UK and America get Santa Claus, because Jesus has sold the franchise, because he got sick of the over-commercialisation. Presumably this means that it makes life easier for both of them, because they've carved up the distribution zones between them, and that helps when you're trying to cover the entire earth in a 24-hour span.
Santa, however, also gets his own holiday in Germany : St. Nicklaustag. This is presumably another of those franchise agreement things, and it helps him get the Reindeer warmed up for the task at hand later in the month.
But, and this is the big difference, the one we are aiming for, St. Nick is accompanied by someone on his rounds in Germany. And I'm not referring to Rudolph, or merry elves that resemble the late Dudley Moore.
I'm referring to Knecht Ruprecht.
In Germany, St. Niklaus, who was apparently originally Greek (despite which, he shows a marked disinterest in scratching his testicles) does not just award gifts to children who have been good, he punishes children who have been bad little boys and girls. The way he punishes them is to hand them over to Knecht Ruprecht, who you can probably see, holds a number of stout, yet flexible and whippy, canes.
Guess what the canes are for. Go on.
Yes, that's right. Quite a brutal thing to inflict on the conscience of a four-year old, isn't it? It comes as no surprise to me that, if you follow the above link, you will find not only Niklaus costumes for rental, but Knecht Ruprecht ones as well. I've seen the utter terror that just a visit from St. Niklaus can generate in a small german boy - can you imagine what Knecht Ruprecht turning up at the door can do to someone who's still wearing nappies?
So, there you have it : the reason why the germans are so "ordentlich", and also the reason why there are more Bondage Clubs per head in Germany than any other European nation.