De Kleeschen – St Nicholas Day (6 December)
In Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas Day is traditionally very important for all the country’s children as they do not go to school and receive gifts from “De Kleeschen”.
Saint Nicholas, the traditional children’s festival in Luxembourg
All children living in Luxembourg cannot wait for Saint Nicholas Day on December 6th.
For them, it is more important than Christmas, as it is on this day that Saint Nicholas or “De Kleeschen” brings gifts and sweets. From the end of November, impatient children leave their shoes in front of the fireplace or the front door, waiting for this big day.
December 6th is a public holiday for children from Luxembourgish fundamental schools. The day before, schools welcome the Saint Patron of schoolchildren. Symbolised by an old gentleman with a white beard and hair, dressed in red and white, a pointed hat (miter) on his head and a crook in his hand, “de Kleeschen” comes to visit schools and nurseries to listen to traditional songs sung by children, including the most famous one, “Leiwe Kleeschen”. After attending the show, Saint Nicholas gives them sweets.
Saint Nicholas is accompanied by Black Peter “Houseker”, dressed all in black with a whip and a big bag. His mission is to give disobedient children pieces of wood, or even whiplashes, instead of candies and sweets.
The legend of Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas celebrates Bishop Nicholas of Myre (270-345), who helped the poor and protected children. He lived in the city of Myre in present-day Turkey. He is today the Saint Patron of many jobs and nations.
The legend of Saint Nicolas tells that 3 children in Lorraine (France) would have been lost by going to glean in the fields. They would have found refuge in a butcher’s house. Instead of helping the children, the butcher killed them, cut them into small pieces and locked them in his salting room. Saint Nicholas, who was passing by with his donkey, knocked at the butcher’s door and asked for food. The butcher understood that he was discovered and confessed his fault. Saint Nicholas then made the children back to life. Since that day, Saint Nicholas has been gratifying kind and obedient children, while the butcher, symbolised by Black Peter, punishes disobedient children.
Saint Nicholas Day takes place during Christmas markets, which illuminate and animate Luxembourgish cities before Christmas.