I arrived home from a Christmas shopping expedition last night, and found a plastic bag at my door. It contained a chocolate Santa, a Christmas mug, homemade cookies, and a note from Ursula, Mistress of the Garden. It was December 6th, and the note said that Nikolaus had paid a visit while I was out and had left this bag for me outside in the flower bed. I was very touched.
In Germany, December 6th is the day the saint pays a visit to each home accompanied by the scary Knecht Ruprecht. In a reverse kind of north american Hallowe’en tradition, the strangely dressed visitors give you treats if you’ve been good, and retribution if you’ve been bad.
I’ve been good, apparently. Ursula often calls me before she goes outside to work in the garden, and I’m always glad to join her. I help rake the leaves, prune bushes — the usual fall chores — and it’s a sociable affair. Ursula is good company and we help each other with our respective languages; most of the residents of the apartment building eventually pass by, often stopping for a chat. An elderly neighbour usually comes out with her dog to watch us, and when it’s cold she brings us tea in a wicker basket.
I’d say that the gifts St. Nikolaus left last night are only one of many that have been found in that garden.