School tackles ‘scary’ Nikolaus issue

Austria’s first Nikolausschule (Saint Nicolas School) is offering courses for St Nikolaus lookalikes who are gearing up to visit children over the coming weeks.It is a popular tradition in the Catholic parts of German-speaking Europe that a Father Christmas figure called Heiliger Nikolaus brings sweets, nuts and fruits to youngsters on 5 or 6 December.Now a Roman Catholic youth welfare organisation has initiated the first Austrian Nikolausschule. They are now offering courses at dioceses across the country to inform volunteers dressing up as Saint Nicholas how best to “spread the message in an authentic and pedagogically correct way”.The Katholische Jungschar’s initiative comes shortly after a controversial decision from a Viennese kindergarten who decided to not invite Nikolaus to visit the children this year.Managers of the Kinderfreunde kindergarten in the Favoriten district explained they arranged for Saint Nicolas to wander through the garden, and the children can wave to him from inside. He will then put presents into the kids’ shoes in the cloakroom but not enter the building’s main rooms where the children are playing, they said.The kindergarten managers claimed a few children were scared of the character’s “impressive appearance” when he visited them last year. Some parents have reportedly put contended this, stressing that their youngsters were not frightened by ghostly goings-on at the nursery’s recent Halloween party.