Weihnachtsmann


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Weihnachtsmann

In Germany Christmas begins on Christmas Eve, which is called Weihnacht, or "watch night." A mythological figure known as the Weihnachtsmann, or the "Christmas man," ushers in the Christmas season there. The Weihnachtsmann resembles the English Father Christmas more than he does Santa Claus. Like Father Christmas, the Weihnachtsmann personifies the Christmas season.

Unlike his English counterpart, however, the Weihnachtsmann often appears as both old and tired. He is commonly depicted as a bearded old man trudging through snow-covered streets, shoulders drooping. Often he carries a small Christmas tree over his shoulder. Perhaps the image of the exhausted, elderly gift bringer is meant to represent the age of the year, which at Christmas time has nearly expired. The Weihnachtsmann is only one of several folk figures known to visit German-speaking lands in December. Others include Berchta, Christkindel, Knecht Ruprecht, and St. Nicholas.

Further Reading

Lehane, Brendan. A Book of Christmas. Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1986.