Christ Child, Christkind, Kriss Kringle
In parts of GERMANY, Switzerland, and Austria the Christkindel or Christkind brings children their Christmas GIFTS. Christkindel means “Christ child” in German. Some people understand the Christ Child to be the child Jesus; others view the Christ Child as an ANGEL, who appears as a young girl with golden wings, long blond hair, and flowing robes.
In past times a rather threatening spirit known as Hans Trapp accompanied the Christ Child in some German-speaking regions. Hans Trapp dressed in furs and carried a rod, making it his duty to punish children who had behaved badly. The Christ Child generally intervened on the naughty child’s behalf, however.
The Christ Child became a German gift bringer around the seven-teenth century. During the Reformation, Protestant reformers wanted to teach children that all blessings come directly from God. Rather than let children continue to believe that ST. NICHOLAS brought their gifts, they introduced the concept of the Christkindel. Nuremberg, Germany’s famous CHRISTMAS MARKET, which displays hundreds of gift items each year, adopted the name “Christ Child Market” in the seventeenth century.
German immigrants brought the notion of the Christkindel with them to the United States. Over time the customs and lore connected with Christkindel faded and the word itself changed to “Kriss Kringle.” The growing popularity of SANTA CLAUS in the United States eventually eclipsed any remaining notion of the Christ Child, and Kriss Kringle became simply another name for Santa.