Rescuing St. Nicholas
In 1997 Fr. Eckhard Bieger, Frankfurt, launched the Frankfurter Nikolousinitiative—anti-Santa—campaign to show the difference between the traditional figure of Sankt Nikolaus and the Christmas Man—Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas is a model for social engagement and compassion, not a marketing tool. In the first year 5000 stickers in support were sold by December 4th.
Bonifatius Werk in Paderborn, leads the effort with the Weihnachtsmannfreie Zone! The Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart’s Nikolausaktion, the Federation of German Catholic Youth and the Diocese of Speyer’s Vorfahrt für den Nikolaus (Think Nicholas), and Frankfurt’s Frankfurter Nikolausinitiative e.V., that started it all. These groups promote a season focused on St. Nicholas’ values of care for those in need and love for children, rather than a commercial frenzy of activity and expense.
The action projects offer stickers, posters, postcards, study guides, stories, songs, ideas for families and groups, as well as Bishop Nicholas chocolate figures. Nikolaus is regaining ground. Nikolaus chocolates are sold in Christmas markets and Black Forest area towns. Some Christmas markets are now “Santa Claus” free. Rhineland and Hesse youth organizations encourage Nikolaus. Catholic schools in Berlin promote Nikolaus and the Archbishop of Munich and Freising gives away Nikolaus chocolate figures each December 5th. These are just some of the ways Bishop St. Nicholas’ influence is growing.
What do you do if you can’t find chocolate figures of Bishop Nikolaus? Silvia Englberger, Osterhofen, had that experience in 2006. Having been told that they were plentiful in Austria, she crossed over in mid-November. Alas, Austrian shopkeepers said that so many German customers from Bavaria come and had already snatched them all up. Undaunted, she contacted the Austrian company Hauswirth just in time to get their last 100 figures. She distributed the chocolate Nicholas bishops at church the next Sunday.
- Frankfurter Nikolausinitiative e.V.
- Hawley, Charles, “Christmas Backlash: Saving St. Nicholas from Santa Claus,” Spiegel Online, December 1, 2006.
- Klein, Georg, “Weihnachtsmannfreie Zone—gibt es das überhaupt noch?” evangelisch.de, December 6, 2009.
- Nikolausaktion der Fachstelle Medien
- Weihnachtsmannfreie Zone