The Christkind, or Das Christkind, was created to separate the Protestant Reformation from Catholic traditions. Over the centuries this gift bearer for German children became an ecumenical icon for the Christmas season.
Christkind and the Protestant Reformation
When Martin Luther placed a nail through his Ninety-Five Thesis on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, each strike of his hammer cracked religious beliefs in Germany. As the Protestant Reformation grew, Luther sought ways to differentiate his movement from Catholic celebrations. Saint Nickolas Day on December 6th was the traditional day of gift-giving. Luther created an alternative gift-bearer, the Christkind, to deliver presents on December 25th. Northern, and more-Protestant Germany, shifted to the new icon while the more-Catholic south continued to honor St. Nick.
After two centuries, and a religious war that lasted 30 years, Catholic Germans began celebrating the Christkind. Rather than a Christ child, the symbol became a beautiful female angel.
Christkind and the German Christmas
Christmas Eve is the peak of German Christmas celebrations. The evening meal includes a massive meal, known as the the Dickbauch, or fat stomach. Guests are required to gorge themselves with treats, like suckling pig, or be haunted by demons that night. Similar to Santa Claus, children are exploding with anticipation. Parents warn them not to look for the Christkind in fear their house might be passed over. A bell announces the spirit has departed. The door opens to the first presentation of the Christmas Tree surrounded by Christkind-delivered gifts.
Christkind and the Christmas Market
Advent opens the Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas Markets. These decorative festivals are held in town and city squares. The opening night celebrates the arrival of the Christkind. Local girls vie for the opportunity to be decorated in gold with crowns and wings. In major cities, the Christkind is a celebrity that hosts events throughout the Christmas season. In Bavaria, and other parts of Southern Germany, the markets are called Christkindlesmarkt.
Christkind and the Holiday Season
Germans brought many traditions in the massive immigration to America. Chistkind became ‘Kris Kringle,’ eventually a Santa Claus reference. Saint Nickolas Day is still widely celebrated in Germany. In some areas the Christkind is an exclusive. Many enjoy both. The irony is this golden holiday angel was originally intended as a holiday barrier between two religions, yet the Christkind eventually bridged them.