Counting sticks are also known as Betholz, Abena wood, Abena wood or Klausenholz. It contains the inscription of the number of prayers performed. The staff was often 30 to 40 cm long. It was made of solid wood, mostly from a piece of waste wood from spruce.
Nicholas Wood checked the toilet
The small staff was often provided with a decorative handle. Depending on the type of counting stick – square or hexagonal – different types of prayers were scored separately.
On the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th, St. Nicholas takes the Farzah sticks with him. This gave rise to the custom of stopping on the evening of the festival. When Santa Claus examined the sticks, he rubbed the “lying” or prayed hard on the sharp edge of the table. At least with girls – it is said that with boys he often ruined them completely.
Children usually pray in front of them
Some children had two counting sticks. They had prayed in advance to get the counting stick that was presented to St. Nicholas. The other tally stick was on and hung on the corner of the table during the day. During Advent, we often begin to pray diligently.
In the past, prayer was seen as a sign that children listen to their parents – that they are kind. For the so-called “Klosabäta”, there was a separate “Klosabüachle” in which many different prayers were written down.
Servant Ruprecht as a companion of Santa Claus
In earlier times, Santa’s companion was Knecht Ruprecht exclusively. According to historian Christophe Thuny, the Krampus, which is often associated with Saint Nicholas today, tends to symbolize winter. They stand for the evil of winter and are especially important on the hard nights before Christmas.
Gifts have been reserved for Santa Claus for a long time
Nicholas and his companion Knecht Ruprecht used to remain mostly invisible. On the eve of St. Nicholas Day, they put apples and nuts on the windowsill and ask the parents if the children are doing well all year.
On Christmas Eve, it was also Saint Nicholas who brought gifts – albeit secretly, before or during Christmas Mass. It used to be simpler than it is today: “The gifts were of the simplest kind,” says Thöny. Mostly people got handmade things as gifts and gift buying only came with marketing.
The religious background was more present
In the past, the religious background to St. Nicholas Day held much more importance, as do many other public holidays, says Thuny. “In the past, the religious dimension was the decisive factor,” he says. Nowadays, gifts and business are becoming more of a focus in celebrations.
Nicholas as protector of children and sailors
Saint Nicholas is venerated in both the Western and Eastern churches. Many myths and legends surround the historical person. Despite this, it has been associated for centuries with helping families in need and giving gifts to children, says Thöny. He compares, “It is as popular as Saint Martin among the religious.”
In addition, Santa Claus is considered the protector of sailors. This is because he is said to have resided in Turkey and “tamed” the sea there. The chronicler says that distressed sailors invited him to set sail on their ship.