Every year on 6 December, children throughout the Grand Duchy eagerly await the arrival of the Kleeschen (St Nicholas) and the gifts he brings.
Kleeschen and Houséker
In the Grand Duchy, the Kleeschen takes the form of an old man with white hair and a white beard, dressed in red. What makes him different from Father Christmas is his mitre and his bishop's crozier. He is usually accompanied by the Père Fouettard – 'Houséker' for Luxembourgish children – who is a horrible character dressed in black, who carries a whip. Unlike St Nicholas, who brings sweets for good children, the Houséker brings twigs for children who have been naughty.
In the Grand Duchy, this day is so important that the Ministry of National Education has decided to declare it a holiday for children in fundamental education..
The St Nicholas festivities usually start shortly before 6 December in towns throughout the Grand Duchy, in shopping centres, and in schools. Children can see the Kleeschen and his followers at parades staged throughout the Grand Duchy, and when he visits classes of young children in schools, handing out lots of sweets.
Tradition has it that on the eve of Niklosdag the amiable bishop knocks at front doors, accompanied by his dark acolyte, to bring gifts to the children of the house. He leaves them discreetly on the doorstep without anyone being able to see him, and leaves straight away.
A bit of history ...
'Niklosdag' (St Nicholas’ Day) is celebrated in honour of Nicholas of Myra, also known as Nicholas of Bari, a young bishop in the 4th century who, according to legend, saved a number of children from death.
In the Middle Ages, St Nicholas became the patron saint and protector of young children. Towards the beginning of the 17th century, the tradition of St Nicholas was taken to the United States by European immigrants, where it spread rapidly. The Kleeschen became Santa Claus..
Over the years, this special day for children merged with Christmas, with Santa Claus (Father Christmas) bringing his gifts to American children on 25 December.(article written by the editorial team of the portal luxembourg.lu)