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The Christkindl (Christ Child) figure, as a gift giver, was introduced by Martin Luther in Germany during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Because the doctrine of the reformation believed that praying to Saints was idol worship, the gift giver, St. Nicholas was replaced with the Christkindl.
Even though the Christkindl is supposed to be the incarnation of the baby Jesus, it is often depicted as a blonde girl with wings.
Some writings view the Christkindl as an angel messenger appearing on behalf of the infant Jesus. In parts of Switzerland the Christkindl appears on a sleigh pulled by a deer.
The date of the gift giving to Christmas Eve was another change during the reformation away from the Saints day of December 6th. On Christmas Eve Christkindl enters the house, unseen, through an open window and secretly leaves gifts for the children. In some parts of Germany there is a tradition that when the Christkindl leaves the house a small bell is heard to announce the departure. The parents either pretend to have heard it or it is secretly done by a family member.
The Christkindl figure became part of the Christmas celebrations of Catholic areas of Europe during the 19th century.
Even though the popularity of other gift givers has become more prominent in Europe the Christkindl is still a beloved tradition.
It is thought that the name Kris Kringle is derived from Chriskindl.
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