St Nicholas' Day (6 December)

A special day for children

Every year on 6 December, children throughout the Grand Duchy eagerly await the arrival of the Kleeschen (St Nicholas) and the gifts he brings.

In the Grand Duchy: de Kleeschen an den Houseker

Saint Nicolas and Black Peter with a child
SIP / Zineb Ruppert
In the Grand Duchy, the Kleeschen takes the form of an old man with white hair and a white beard, dressed in red. Unlike Father Christmas, St Nicholas wears a red bishop's mitre on his head and carries a bishop's crozier.

He is most often accompanied by the Houseker, his fear-inspiring dark companion, who gives switches to children who have misbehaved.

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. During the run-up to 6 December, the Kleeschen also visits classes in fundamental schools.

From the end of November, children leave their slippers outside their bedroom doors every night for the Kleeschen to bring them first sweets and then, during the night between 5 and 6 December, proper presents (toys and more sweets). In general, he does not allow himself to be seen by small children, who discover all their gifts early in the morning.

Historical background

'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.

Today, St Nicholas is celebrated in many European countries: not only Luxembourg, but also France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Poland, Austria and others.

Kleeschen, Father Christmas, Santa Claus...

Chocolate and sweets for Saint Nicolas
SIP / Zineb Ruppert
Saint Nicholas is actually the ancestor of Father Christmas.

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.

His persona has also evolved: Saint Nicholas’s mitre has been replaced by a long, floppy red hat and his donkey by a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

As American traditions have in turn spread throughout Europe, it is sometimes difficult for Luxembourgish parents these days to explain to their children the coexistence of the Kleeschen and Santa Claus, and the difference between them.

The Léiwe Kleeschen, Gudde Kleeschen song

Many songs are dedicated to the Kleeschen. Here are some of the most famous.

Download them as MP3s or WMAs*.

One of many children's songs for Saint Nicolas
Zineb Ruppert/SIP
Léiwe Kleeschen

Léiwe Kleeschen, gudde Kleeschen
Bréng eis Saachen, allerhand,
Fir ze kucken, fir ze schmaachen,
Aus dem schéinen Himmelsland.
Bei der Dier do stinn eis Telleren
Beieneen an enger Rei
'T läit och Hee do fir Däin Iesel
Dofir bréng ons Spillgezei. (bis)

Léiwe Kleeschen, gudde Kleeschen,
bréng ons Saachen allerlee,
mir eng Pëppchen, an eng Wéichen,
onsem Charly eng nei Lee!
Dann nach eppes fir de Mëndchen,
domat sinn ech extra frou,
sou e klenge Schocklasbëndchen
gëff mir Kleeschen heemlech zou. (bis)

Léiwe Kleeschen, gudde Kleeschen,
bréng ons Saachen schéin a gudd,
bréng e Päerd mir an eng Gäissel,
wéi dir där am Himmel hutt!
Mat Kamellen eng kleng Tiitchen,
Äppel, Biren, Hieselnëss,
awer maach och, gudde Kleeschen,
dat's de d'Mama net vergëss. (bis)

Léiwe Kleeschen, gudde Kleeschen,
lauschter och wat d'Mamm dir seet,
maach mir frou meng häerzeg Kanner,
't ass fir mech déi gréisste Freed.
Laang nach looss se Kanner bleiwen,
't ass déi schéinst, déi glécklechst Zäit,
well d'Erënnerung un déi Stonne
grad wéi Gold um Liewe läit. (bis)

(Lyrics: Willy Goergen, Music: Pëppy Beicht)


* Source: CD "Mir waarden op een... Lidder a Spréchelcher fir de Kleeschen an d'Chrëschtkëndchen" (2008); Chorus Zinglabumm; Arrangements: Petz Hastert; © Institut européen de chant choral (INECC)

  • Updated 10-06-2016