All of us have grown up with visions and tales of various legends associated with Christmas, and a universal gift-bringer known as 'Santa Claus'. However, what we tend to overlook is the fact that there are a lot more legendary characters who are known to bring Christmas gifts for children in different parts of the world. Christmas, in its truest sense, is a universal festival. It is considered universal because the ideas behind the celebrations are the same, but not the reasons and the characters. This makes the festival stand out, which is why Christmas is regarded as a highly important festival worldwide. From mischievous gnomes to frail Russian grandmothers, different traditions have their own legends and myths related to gift-giving and all are celebrated as unique Christmas characters. Christkind is one such legend. Believed to be the traditional gift-bringer in regions of Croatia, the Czech Republic and parts of Germany, Christkind is also known as the 'Christ Child'. Scroll down for more information.
The figure of Christkind was developed by a church reformer known as Martin Luther, in the 16th century. In those days, many people believed that praying to Saints was a form of idol worship and was hence, banned in many places. Therefore, the traditions of waiting for St. Nicholas to bring gifts were not appreciated by Luther and his followers and he believed that the traditions of St. Nicholas corrupted the minds of children, influencing them negatively. To replace what he thought was a blasphemous tradition, Luther decided to anticipate the coming of Christ with a clear picture of an infant Jesus Christ in his mind. Thus, this alternate Christmas figure was developed and was adopted by many Catholics around the 19th century, almost three centuries after Luther's time, as a traditional gift-bringer to German children.
Christkind is depicted as the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the infant. The child is the early representation of the 16th century, and remained this way till another version of this figure was introduced. Christkind was believed to be a young, blonde child with angelic wings. Parts of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic believed in this version of Christkind for a long time until another depiction was developed. It is also believed that in some processions, the depiction of Christkind was rooted to the theory of an Alsatian-born child bringing gifts to Jesus Christ rather than Christ himself. In many other local towns around these European countries, locals even believed that Christkind was a young teenage girl with golden hair, who was usually festooned in white.
Unlike many other Christmas characters, Christkind has never been seen in person. Although the figure shares an uncanny similarity to the traits of Santa Claus, it is believed that Christkind always brings gifts for children inconspicuously. According to traditions, children are not supposed to see Christkind because of the popular belief that Christkind might not bring them presents if they tried to look for him. Families get together in the living room on Christmas morning and believe that Christkind left presents for them under the Christmas tree. In some parts of Germany and Austria, it is also believed that the departure of Christkind from a person's house is announced by the ringing of a small bell, which either the parents pretend to have heard at night, or which is secretly done by one of the members of the family to get the children to believe that Christkind visited their house.
Since the figure of Santa Claus gained prominence after its inception as a commercial figure, the popularity for Christkind has waned over the decade. Although there are still many parts of Europe where belief in this Christmas figure is going strong and many Catholic regions of Central and South America still believe in its existence, the images of this figure are rarely mentioned. Eventually, names like Kris Kringle, Christkindl and Christkindel were derived from Christkind that went on to become other popular Christmas figures around the world.
Although there are various figures that still hold prominence in many parts of the world, no one would have anticipated that a girl bedecked in white and gold or a small, blonde infant boy would become a prominent gift-giver in many parts of Germany and Austria. The beauty of Christmas lies in its traditions, and the beauty of the traditions lies in the fact that they are so multihued and come with so many different legends. Such, is the diversity of Christmas.
Christkind, also known as the 'Christ Child', is known to be a traditional gift giver in parts of Europe. Read on to know more about this Christmas legend.