During November, St. Nicolas, known as Klees'chen, comes to Luxembourg to check and see if the children deserve any presents. He is also found in shops where children have pictures taken with him. For days and weeks before St. Nicolas Day on December 6th, children put their shoes or slippers on the windowsill or in front of their bedroom doors. During the night, St. Nicolas may drop chocolates or other sweets into the shoes as he travels around learning about children's behavior. He also visits school classrooms.
On the Sunday before his festival, towns and cities officially welcome St. Nicolas. In some places he arrives by boat to be met by the mayor and aldermen. They escort him to the town hall, where a crowd of happy, excited children beg in verse for bonbons. St. Nicholas gives each child a bag filled with apples, cakes, and bonbons.
On the Eve of St. Nicholas Day, children put plates on the table for St. Nicolas to fill with sweets and treats when he comes with gifts. The children also leave nice drawings, beautiful poems or other tokens of appreciation for St. Nicholas to find. Hay is put under the table for the donkey who carries the toys and sweets.
Nicolas is accompanied by angels or maybe Housécker (like the French Père Fouettard) who brings a bag of switches as a reminder to be well behaved. Nicholas' treats on the plates are sweets, chocolate, oranges, nuts and small gifts, such as socks, school supplies and small toys. Larger gifts are found under the table, today they might be Lego sets or even fancy electronics, as St. Nicholas Day is the primary day for gift giving—larger than Christmas.
Children discover their gifts in the morning, as Kleeschen is not usually seen. The day is so important that primary children have a holiday from school!
A special St. Nicholas tradition in Luxembourg is Boxemännercher, a local pastry shaped like a stylized man, representing Saint Nicholas. He may be decorated with pieces of chocolate or raisins for eyes and buttons. The figures are made of sweetened yeast dough just for December 6th, St. Nicholas Day.
In 2019 over 3,650 people signed a petition asking that December 6th be made a public holiday to encourage families to celebrate Kleeserchersday. However, the Prime Minister declined to do so even though traditions are important, as he believes that people can use annual leave if they wish to celebrate. So, it is still just primary school children that have a holiday on December 6.
Niklosdag, December 6, was added to Luxembourg's formal lists of intangible cultural heritage in 2019. The citation stated that Niklosdag is eagerly anticipated by children for weeks in advance as they wait to receive gifts and sweets. The celebration is one of the festival season's highlights.
American Saint Nicolas in Wiltz
In Memory of Richard Brookins
the American Saint Nicolas