Five hundred years ago, church reformer, Martin Luther wanted to shift the focus from St Nicholas as the gift bearer back to the Christ child. So in 16th-17th century in Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer back to the Christ child known as ‘Christkind’. The date of giving gifts also changed from St Nicholas feast day on December 6th, to Christmas Eve December 24th.
The traditional Christmas gift bringer in Germany and most German speaking regions of Europe is ‘The Christ-child’ also known as ‘Christkind’. This now popular gift bringer is depicted in areas of Europe such as Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Croatia, Australia, Southern Brazil, some part of Hispanic America and Slovakia.
The Christkind in Germany is more often depicted as a sprite-like child with angelic wings and blonde hair wearing a white robe. Some presume Christkind to be the incarnation of Jesus as an infant. Often children like to leave a letter on the windowsill for the Chirstkind. Yet, children never see the Christkind. They are encouraged not to peek and try and see the figure arrive for if they do no present will be left. So the tradition is for parents to secretly ring a bell, which children believe the Christkind rings upon departure. Parents will always tell the children that the 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 the Germans had a hard time getting their mind around the baby Jesus giving gifts so the Christmas gift-giver gradually morphed into a sweet girl. This sweet girl became known as the Christkind. Today, in modern Germany the Christkind is chosen every year in a contest. Usually a teenage girl, dressed in gold that is like a rock star complete with bodyguard, publicist and even her own entourage! The entrance of the modern-day Christkind is often marked by cheering crowds.
However, the appearance and name ‘Christkind’ changes from region to region. Here are some name variations that can be found for example: Christkindl, Christkindle and Christkindel. Another popular depiction of the Christkind is a fairy-like being with a crown on top of her golden curly long locks, dressed in a glorious gold and white robe. However, within some regions, the golden angelic girl is nowhere to be seen as the traditional ‘Weihnachtsmann’ or Father Christmas (better known as Santa Claus) is the bearer of gifts.
So depending where you are in Europe, you will see variations of the depiction of the Christkind. However, no matter where you are, this bringer of gifts is depicted bringing much joy and happiness.