Tomorrow is St. Nikolas Day! This is not a major holiday observed in the US, but I've recently learned that it is a very special children's holiday celebrated with small gifts and a great feast in many European countries.
Children throughout Austria are preparing tonight by placing their boots outside their front door, or on a windowsill, and praying that they'll wake up tomorrow morning to boots full of oranges, apples, nuts, chocolates, and small toys.
You see, it is tradition that St. Nikolas and his sidekick, the Krampus, visit the homes of children on the eve of St. Nikolas and leave treats in the shoes of the good children and tree branches (Rute) in the shoes of the bad children.
Allegedly, the first two weeks of December are judgment weeks for children in Austria. It is believed that the Krampus used to threaten and frighten the bad children in the first two weeks of December and especially on the 5th while St. Nikolas gave gifts to the good ones. Today, young men dress up as Krampi and roam the streets and frighten children into behaving better with rusty chains and bells. There are even parade-like events for the Krampi, called a Krampuslauf. Um, scary!