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Saint Nicholas Glossary
Das Nikolaus-Lexikon

An Annotated German-English Glossary

The many German names for Saint Nicholas and his escorts...

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The following alphabetical list includes most of the many different German names used for Nikolaus/Saint Nicholas and his helpers (Begleiter). Click on any linked name for more information about that term. Also see the related entries below.

MALE: Ale Josef, Ascheklas, Aschenmann, Bartel/Bartl, Beelzebub, Belsnickel, Belsnickle (Amer.), Belznickel, Boozenickel, Bornkindl, Bullerklaas/Bullerklas, Burklaas, Butz, Butzemärtel, Düsseli, Düvel, Hans Muff, Hans Trapp, Heiliger Mann, Kinnjes, Klaasbur, Klapperbock, Klas Bur, Klaubauf, Klaus, Klawes, Klos, Krampus, Leutfresser, Niglo, Nikolo, Pelzebock, Pelzebub, Pelzemärtel, Pelznickel, Pelzpercht, Pelzprecht, Pulterklas, Rauklaas, Rugklaas, Ruhklas, Rumpelklas, Rupsack, Samichlaus, Satniklos, Schimmelreiter, Schmutzli, Schnabuck, Semper, Storrnickel, Strohnickel, Sunner Klaus, Swatter Pitt, Zink Muff, Zinterklos, Zwarte Pitt, Zwarter Piet

FEMALE: Berchte/Berchtel, Budelfrau, Buzebergt, Lutzl, Percht, Pudelfrau, Rauweib, Zamperin


der Ascheklas northern German term for Knecht Ruprecht - See Ruprecht


der Bartel/Bartl term for Krampus or Ruprecht in Styria/Steiermark (Austria)

der Belsnickel, Belsnickle, Belznickel

All three terms above are related to Pelznickel and are variations of the name found in the Palatinate along the Rhine, the Saarland, and several other northwest German areas. Belsnickle is a term used by German-Americans from those regions and their descendents.


das Christkind/das Christkindl Christ Child

The Christmas gift-bringer in Protestant regions of Germany. Luther's original concept was more like the baby Jesus, but the Christkind was gradually transformed into an adult angel dressed all in white. But today, the Weihnachtsmann has pretty much taken over the Christkind role, even in northern Germany.

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der Christkindlmarkt/der Christkindlesmarkt Christmas market/fair

Also called der Weihnachtsmarkt, Christmas markets are set up in a town square during the Advent season (the four weeks leading up to Christmas). Some have Web sites during the Christmas season. - See our Christmas Links page.


der Düsseli Swiss German term for Knecht Ruprecht - See Ruprecht



der Hans Muff ("der muffige Hans" = "grumpy Hans") Lower Rhine/Niederrhein term for Knecht Ruprecht - See Ruprecht


Jesus (YEA-zoos), Jesulein Jesus, Baby Jesus


Klos Swabian name for St. Nicholas' helper - See Ruprecht

Knecht Ruprecht North German name for St. Nicholas' helper. - See Ruprecht below.

Krampus Austrian/Bavarian name for Knecht Ruprecht. - See Ruprecht below.


Nikolaus Nicholas/St. Nicholas

Although the Roman Catholic Church struck it from its official calendar in 1969, many Austrians and Germans continue to celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas on December 6. The patron saint of children, St. Nicholas (der Heilige Nikolaus) is a blend of at least two saints named Nicholas: Nicholas of Myra (4th century) and Nicholas of Sion (6th century). The gift-giving tradition is based on a legend about Nicholas leaving three bags of gold in the room of three poor girls in order to save them from being orphaned. (Also see "Weihnachtsmann")

Nikolo St. Nicholas (Upper Bavaria/Oberbayern)



Ruprecht, Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus

A demonic figure who used to accompany St. Nicholas to punish bad children with his Rute (switch); based on mythical winter figures going back to pagan times. Also known as Hans Muff, Krampus, Nickel, and other names. In some regions, Ruprecht or Krampus is good - just another Weihnachtsmann.

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der Sankt/der Heilige saint

Once the Protestant Reformation took place, saints were out and a replacement for Saint Nicholas (Nicholas of Myra) had to be found. Enter the German Christkindl and later the Weihnachtsmann. - Also see "Ruprecht" above.

der Schimmelreiter "white horse rider"

This north German term for St. Nicholas refers to the white horse that Nicholas rides in some parts of Germany and in Alpine regions.

Schmutzli Swiss German name for Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus



der Weihnachtsmann Santa Claus, Father Christmas

Martin Luther had introduced das Christkind to replace Saint Nicholas for the Protestants. But sometime after about 1847 the custom of das Christkind as the Christmas gift-bringer began to change over to the more secular Weihnachtsmann - a compromise made up of a mixture of Catholic, Protestant, and pagan figures. The old demonic, rathful Knecht Ruprecht who had scared children to death with his evil looks and Rute switch, was blended with Saint Nicholas (himself a mixture of several saints) to create the Weihnachtsmann. The Austrian-born painter Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871) is generally credited with helping to create the Weihnachtsmann prototype with his "Herr Winter" series of woodcuts for the Münchner Bilderbogen magazine.


der Zinterklos St. Nicholas (northern Rhineland/nördliches Rheinland)

MORE > Nikolaus 1 > Nikolaus 2 > Nikolaus 2
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