Five hundred years ago, church reformer Martin Luther wanted to change the focus from Saint Nicholas as a gift bearer to the baby Jesus. So in the 16th-17th centuries in Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bearer to the baby Jesus known as ‘Christkind’. The gift delivery date also changed from the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6 to Christmas Eve on December 24.
The traditional bearer of Christmas gifts in Germany and most of the German-speaking regions of Europe is ‘Baby Jesus’, also known as ‘Christkind’. This now popular gift bearer is represented in areas of Europe such as Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Croatia, Australia, southern Brazil, some part of Latin America, and Slovakia.
The Christkind in Germany is most often depicted as a goblin-like child with angelic wings and blond hair in a white robe. Some presume that Christkind is the incarnation of Jesus as a child. Children often like to leave a letter on the windowsill for the Chirstkind. However, children never see Christkind. They are encouraged not to look and try to see the figure arrive, otherwise no gifts will be left with them. So, the tradition is that parents ring a bell in secret, that children believe that Christkind rings when leaving. Parents will always tell children that Christkind disappeared after leaving presents under the tree, just before they entered the room. It is a magical tradition.
There are many writings that suggest that the Germans had a hard time thinking about the baby Jesus giving gifts, so the giver of Christmas gifts gradually transformed into a sweet little girl. This sweet little girl became known as Christkind. Today, in modern Germany, the Christkind is chosen each year in a competition. Usually a teenage girl, dressed in gold who is like a rock star complete with bodyguards, publicist and even her own entourage. The entrance to modern Christkind is often marked by cheering crowds.
However, the appearance and the name ‘Christkind’ change from region to region. Here are some name variations that can be found, for example: Christkindl, Christkindle, and Christkindel. Another popular representation of Christkind is a fairy-like being with a crown on top of her long curly golden locks, dressed in a glorious gold and white robe. However, within some regions, the golden angelic girl is nowhere seen as the traditional ‘Weihnachtsmann’ or Santa Claus (better known as Father Christmas) is the bearer of gifts.
So depending on where you are in Europe, you will see variations of the Christkind rendering. However, no matter where you are, this gift bearer is depicted bringing a lot of joy and happiness.