Christ Child, Christkind, Kriss Kringle

In parts of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria the Christkindel or Christkind brings children their Christmas gifts. Christkindel means "Christ child" in German. Some people understand the Christ Child to be the child Jesus; others view the Christ Child as an angel, who appears as a young girl with golden wings, long blond hair, and flowing robes.

In past times a rather threatening spirit known as Hans Trapp accompanied the Christ Child in some German-speaking regions. Hans Trapp dressed in furs and carried a rod, making it his duty to punish children who had behaved badly (see also Knecht Ruprecht). The Christ Child generally intervened on the naughty child's behalf, however.

The Christ Child became a German gift bringer around the seventeenth century. During the Reformation, Protestant reformers wanted to teach children that all blessings come directly from God. Rather than let children continue to believe that St. Nicholas brought their gifts, they introduced the concept of the Christkindel. Nuremberg, Germany's famous Christmas market, which displays hundreds of gift items each year, adopted the name "Christ Child Market" in the seventeenth century.

German immigrants brought the notion of the Christkindel with them to the United States. Over time the customs and lore connected with Christkindel faded and the word itself changed to "Kriss Kringle." The growing popularity of Santa Claus in the United States eventually eclipsed any remaining notion of the Christ Child, and Kriss Kringle became simply another name for Santa.

Further Reading

Del Re, Gerard, and Patricia Del Re. The Christmas Almanack. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979. Miles, Clement A. Christmas in Ritual and Tradition. 1912. Reprint. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1990. Stevens, Patricia Bunning. Merry Christmas!: A History of the Holiday. New York: Macmillan, 1979.
Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, 2nd ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2003
References in periodicals archive ?
pounds 35 TAKE in the Christkindel markt in Millennium Square, Leeds (until December 20) when you stay at the the city's three-star Quality Selby Hotel for pounds 35 a night in a double/twin room.

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