Grüß Gott, HErr Nikolaus!

Naughty children, pesky Omas, inclement weather, and tricky golden book-keeping; it’s not always easy to be Nikolaus. Nonetheless, for over 40 years, Bavarian Sigi Franke has donned a bishop’s miter and taken up bell and crozier to carry on a beloved Advent-season tradition. He and his wife Maria reminisce for German Life.
by Jackie Guigui-Stolberg • Photographs Courtesy Jackie Guigui-Stolberg

Sigi, you’ve been Nikolaus for over forty years now. How did you start?
It started with the Advent party at our local Burschenverein [club for young, unmarried men] when I was sixteen. A really good party had to include a visit from Nikolaus. Who would be Nikolaus for our club? Me. I collected anecdotes about the club members, wrote them in rhyme form, and then recited them for everyone at the party. I did that for a few years, and word got around about me. Other clubs asked me to be Nikolaus for them too. Finally, parents asked me if I could visit their children at home.

Saint Nicholas Day (Nikolaus)—is on December 6. Is that when you visit families?
I’m really busy on December 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th. In the mornings I visit kindergartens, playgroups, or an elementary school, and between 5 and 9 p.m. I visit families at home. I’m more selective about where I go now, but I used to have at least fifty Nikolaus appearances a season! Lots of different clubs had Nikolaus parties, but now I still only go to two: at a Burschenverein and at a village association [Dorfverein]. Private Nikolaus parties for adults, where they sat together and drank mulled wine, don’t exist anymore. But they were nice.

How do you prepare yourself for all the appointments?
Maria really helps me; she’s like my manager. My days as Nikolaus can be very stressful. I might have ten or more family appointments each evening. The parents bring me presents beforehand to put in my sack, and I also ask them to give me a piece of paper listing three positive and three negative points about each of their children. The notes have to be in my golden book when I go to the family.

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