Growing up in Germany, the night of December 5th was always a big deal. Sometime during that night Nikolaus would come and fill your (very clean) snow boot with treats, small gifts and sometimes potatoes. Nikolaus is said to be Santa's helper and he visits to a) shorten the time until his big friend arrives and b) gives you a hint whether you are on the naughty or nice list. The clue is found in your boot. Treats mean you can relax, you've made it onto the nice list and potatoes, well.. you've still got a couple of weeks to do better!
I remember that one Nikolaus morning very well when my boot contained nothing but potatoes (I swear.. I wasn't that bad!). The tears were huge but you can bet that I learned my lesson. But I also remember asking my dad for help cleaning my boot, my determination to stay awake every year to catch a glimpse of Nikolaus and failing miserably every year - as well as the disappointment when I figured out who really was behind the Nikolaus-story. I may have been mad at my parents for a minute or two but nowadays I just think of the magic and the joy and try my best to postpone that same moment of disappointment until next year when it comes to my own kids.
A couple of years ago I thought that this was it when my youngest asked: "Mommy, how come we are the only kids at school that put their boots out on December 5th?" Uh-oh. "Ummm... well, Nikolaus is German and he only visits German kids." I am sorry kiddo. I hope you'll forgive me. Seeing your big smile and that same excitement and anticipation that I once felt in your beautiful eyes, I just couldn't bring myself to kill the magic just yet.
Nikolaus, cleaning my boot with the help of my dad every evening of December 5th, finding treats and small gifts the next morning, the sigh of relief that clearly I had made it onto the nice list once again (but for that one year) is one of my favorite [childhood] Christmas memories and I hope, it will be a favorite for my children, too.