Santa Claus is another Christmas tradition that Americans have adopted from Germany. Tonight in many small Bavarian and Austrian towns, someone dressed as Heilige Nikolaus will go door to door and leave gifts and sweets for children. This character, complete with his staff and long robes, goes back to the original Saint Nicholas, a third-century bishop. Over time, Saint Nicholas evolved into the American Santa Claus.
However, over the last hundred years or so, Germans have re-adopted the Americanized version of Saint Nicholas and now call him Weihnachtsmann, or "Christmas Man." It isn't a surprise that Germans took so quickly to that image, as it was a Bavarian-American who created it. Thomas Nast was a political cartoonist born in Landau, then a part of Bavaria. He moved to the States and drew for Harper's Weekly. He is most known for being the first person to depict the Republican Party with the image of an elephant. But in 1863 he drew a jolly, round, pipe-smoking elf we know today as the modern Santa Claus.
About that same time, German chocolate makers improved their molds and produced increasingly better three-dimensional candies. One of the best chocolatiers is Riegelein, from Cadolzburg, just west of Nuremberg. Our chocolate Santas come from Riegelein and are exactly the same traditional Santa/Weihnachtsmann as you would find at the Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt. Stop by out gift shop and pick up a sweet Christmas tradition for your family.