German children used to be very scared of Santa, who was called ‘Weihnachtsmann’. Every little German child used to learn this verse:
“Lieber guter Weihnachtsmann,
Sieh mich nicht so böse an,
Stecke deine Rute ein,
Ich will auch immer artig sein!”
In English it means something like this:
Dear good Santa,
Don’t give me these scary looks,
Do get rid of that stick of yours,
I do promise, I’ll always be good!
It was very important that a child was able to recite this to the Weihnachtsmann”: If they could not say it they would be smacked by Santa! Or at least they believed he was going to smack them with his stick full of branches. This stick was Santa’s “Rute”. No child could imagine Santa without a “Rute”.
Older children were expected to recite a longer poem. Learning a poem like this by heart would keep me busy during the weeks before Christmas.
I think as a nine year old I learned to recite:
“Markt und Strassen sind verlassen . . . .”
I loved this poem. It spoke to me of a very calm and peaceful night, the night of Christmas.