Every year on the night of December 5th German children polish their shoes/boots and leave them outside (to get rained on) and in the morning they find their shoes/boots filled with little gifts - often chocolate, after all with Christmas in 18/9 days (dependant on whether you're German and so opening presents on 24th or British and opening them on actual Christmas day) do children really need more gifts?
It's actually to remember the death of Nicholas of Myra (now the Anatolia region of modern Turkey), who died on that day in 346. He was a Greek Christian bishop known for miracles and giving gifts secretly, and is now the patron saint of little children, sailors, merchants and students.
In theory only good children are rewarded with gifts and those who've been naughty aren't or are threatened with a spanking (we're so not pc here).
My friend Rebecca went to a Nikolaus 'party' this year and had to provide details of both good and naughty deeds by her children for Nikolaus to then read out to the assembled children (our bookgroup on Friday night had fun thinking up what she could put forward), apparently the children were rendered speechless as Nikolaus told them what he knew of their misdemeanours...although the jury's still out on whether the behaviour patterns change!
The very first year we lived in Germany my then 10 year old son (who clearly thought himself very wise) told me that Nikolaus Tag was Friday when in fact it was the Thursday...his plan to prove that Nikolaus didn't exist. Imagine his surprise when we left the house to go to school (foreigners - walking their children to school) and found a small bag of goodies for each child outside the front door (my clever German neighbour, who has two smaller children herself had played at being Nikolaus for us) boy did I laugh!
This year he's 12 and believes in nothing, tooth fairy - no, santa - no, nikolaus - no, easter bunny - no (but only after I had a long discussion with him about the improbability of any rabbit being able to purchase and then deliver chocolate eggs) and he abandoned god a long time ago - possibly before santa and the tooth fairy, after all, as he told me, there was physical evidence of both santa and the tooth fairy, in that they left things behind...
Meanwhile the 8 year old is still a believer (bless her) although I do think her teacher was pushing it a little as he requested that all the year 3's (mixed year group class of 3 & 4) receive a fountain pen from Nikolaus and then he could start them writing with their new pens this week...so she came home from school telling me how all the year 3's (but not the 4's) in her class had fountain pens from Nikolaus...what a coincidence!