Kleeschen

The mall on November 1. Too early? Or just in time?

I had a cultural misunderstanding last week at the mall.

I arrived bright and early one morning to discover that the entire mall had become a winter wonderland.

“Noooooo!” I groaned to myself. “It is waaaaaay too early. Sheesh! Even in Luxembourg?”

Then, this morning, I heard Mark Weedon discussing this very thing on ARA City Radio.

The decorations are not up early at all. Not when you have Kleeschen coming on December 5.

Thank you, Mark!

Kleeschen arrives accompanied by his sidekick, Hoùseker, who dresses in black and carries a stick to use on any unfortunate children who have not been good. Kleeschen, who is famous for rescuing three children from the hands of an evil butcher, makes the rounds, visiting schools and even shops, stopping often for photo opportunities and sometimes leading parades. (For more on the sidekick, you might want to take this opportunity to re-read David Sedaris’ hilarious take on this time of year.)

As I understand it, Kleeschen’s arrival in town is a Big Deal. On the afternoon of the first Sunday preceding December 6 (this year that is December 4, between 14h00 and 17h00), Klees’chen and Hoùseker arrive at the main train station and dole out sweets to kids on their parade to the city center (which is NOT to be confused with the December 11 Christmas Parade).

When Kleeschen is around, all the children leave their shoes out on window sills in case he wants to drop in some candies if he should happen to pass by to check if they’ve been bad or good. Finally, on Saint Nicholas Day eve (December 5), the children set out plates for Kleeschen to fill–traditionally with nuts and fruit, but these days I suspect things might be a little fancier.

Here is your Luxembourgish lesson for the day. Say Schéi Chrëschtdeeg! That’s Luxembourgish for “Have happy Christmas days!”

And here is a link for Rent-A-Kleeschen. Could be useful.

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  1. Valentina says:

    So what about Christmas eve and St. Nich aka Santa Claus and his gifts? xov

    • The Expatresse says:

      While in the US Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas are one and the same (largely because of Clement Clark Moore’s 1823 poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” and Coca-Cola ads in the 1930s), in this part of the world we have Saint Nicholas, who comes with treats for the children on December 6, followed later by Père Noël on December 24.

      But then it all gets muddy. If I understand correctly, Saint Nicholas looks like a bishop. And he may be accompanied by Le Père Fouettard or some other form of the character Black Peter who hands out the punishments for naughtiness. Père Noël doesn’t go about with eight tiny reindeer, but he does have a little donkey named Gui (Mistletoe).

      My guess is that Dec 24 is for church and visiting with family??

      In some parts of the world (Slovakia, for example), the Baby Jesus brings presents on Christmas Eve (after Mikulas brings gits on Dec 6).

      In Russia, Ded Moroz (Дед Мороз) brings the presents himself (no sneaking about under dark of night, leaving presents in stockings or under trees) accompanied by his helpful, and usually curvaceous, granddaughter, Snegurochka (Снегу́рочка).

      In Spain, the children get their presents when the Three Wise Men arrive on Epiphany.

      But I welcome comments from Europeans who actually follow these traditions. I could be wrong.

      • Tina says:

        Since my Opa was from Holland, as a young child, I left my wooden shoes out on Dec. 6 for St. Nicholas. He always put the candy coins wrapped in gold foil in them. Santa Claus then came with presents on Christmas Eve. I still have wooden shoes on my hearth.

  2. Tina says:

    We spent a lot of time at the local mall last week since we were without power from the storm. Bath and Body Works was playing only Christmas music and had all sorts of holiday displays. It really turned me off and I even remarked to the sales person. Michael’s Crafts has had Christmas items for sale for weeks. I hate it that stores don’t wait until after Thanksgiving.

  3. Anita says:

    I heard Mark’s report too – now I am even more motivated to get my holiday decorations up tonight!

  4. Valentina says:

    OH I agree with Tina! I think it is a shame that commercialism races the calendar ahead so unnecessarily fast! We don’t get to enjoy Halloween before Thanksgiving and then we are inundated with Christmas stuff. What happened to Carpe Diem? xov

  5. kate says:

    Well, I’m not a European and I don’t follow these traditions…but I can’t help commenting. ;>

    Ah, Dyed Moros. It’s worth adding that he comes on New Year’s Eve (when the soviets did away with all religion and “moved” the Christmas celebrations to NYE–quite successfully) and is from the soviet era. He made the children in St. P sing for their supper, so to speak–reciting and singing in order to get their presents. And meat jello. Yum.

    One of my Dutch students told her mom she was sure St. Nicholas was real and Santa Claus was not. She found the flying reindeer preposterous and a roof-jumping horse entirely possible. ;> NORAD always tracked Santa on Christmas eve and we got scrolling updates on tv every hour or so growing up in Colorado.

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