The Legend of Saint Nicholas

© dpa / picture-alliance

“Ho, ho, ho, have you all been good?” The old man with a long white beard, a bishop’s miter, and a thick red cape stands with his finger raised before  the excited children, his eyes moving from one beaming face to the next.

“Yes!” they all shout in unison, impatiently eyeing the heavy brown sack that Saint Nicholas has carried in from the cold night over his shoulder. What could it possibly hold? Toys, books, or even candy? “Well, that’s good to hear!” Nicholas declares and opens his big golden book, from which he reads the names of the children and presents each of them with a small gift from his sack. They politely thank him, offer homemade cookies to
their peculiar guest, and recite small poems. Finally, they accompany him to the door, where he trots off with a jolly “ho, ho, ho,” disappearing into the dark on his way to the next house.

Diverse origins

Such a visit is not at all unusual in Germany in the pre-Christmas season, for every year on December 6 Saint Nicholas is remembered and celebrated in this way. Like many traditions handed down over the centuries, it is unclear what is true and what has been added over time to the legend of Saint Nicholas.

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2018 Campus Weeks “Homestory: Deutschland” at Morgan State University

Pieces of the “Homestory: Deutschland” exhibition as shown at Morgan State University

Students and faculty of Morgan State University filed into the auditorium of the university’s new Behaviorial and Social Science Center on October 16 for the first of several events associated with the 2018 Campus Weeks Homestory: Deutschland exhibit. The small but powerful exhibit, produced by the Initiative of Black Germans (Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland e.V. – ISD-Bund e.V. by its German acronym), chronicles experiences of people of color in Germany from the early 19th century to recent years. It is being shown at Historically Black College and Universities this fall as part of the 2018 Campus Weeks project.

Dr. Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of African-American Literature and Culture and Director of Critical Gender Studies and on the affiliated faculty for the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of CA at San Diego, gave a lecture titled “Homestory Deutschland: On the (Im)possibility of being Black and German.”

Dagmar Schulz’s film, “Audre Lorde: the Berlin Years,” was followed by a lively discussion led by Morgan State professors, Dr. Sandra Skene (Gender Studies) and Dr. Jewel Debnam (History). High school students from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute joined Morgan students for a round table discussion on “The African-American Scholar in Germany: a Morgan Perspective.” Dr. Zekeh Gbotokuma from the Department of Philosophy moderated the panel, which included four Morgan students who had studied in Berlin. 

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Intern Q&A: Clemens Schleupner

Name: Clemens Schleupner

Where you’re from: I’m from a little town near Düsseldorf, called Willich.

Where and what you’re studying: I’m studying International Relations at Sciences Po Paris.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy? Organizing the EU Open House was certainly my highlight. I got to work with a wonderful team, take responsibility, make mistakes and learn a lot. It was a very intense project, but it’s safe to say that I have never seen anything more rewarding than 7000 happy visitors in the embassy.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it? With political shifts abound, Germany needs to step up and take responsibility in the world. It needs to shape its opinion on issues like the future of the EU and stand for values like integrity and consistency in order to find its place in these challenging times.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States? I’ve lived in DC before, but working in the embassy has made American optimism and the energy of Americans even more apparent to me. It was interesting to see Americans and Germans work together so closely, with all the cultural differences and similarities. I believe that combining both points of views can be nothing but beneficial to any project.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington? Even though I’ve known many corners of DC, I was surprised by how this city always has something new and exciting to offer. I kept discovering new places and activities. After long days in the embassy for example, I appreciated all the green and open spaces that gave me the opportunity to recharge my batteries.

What do you miss about Germany? This summer in particular I missed the German Soccer culture. Regarding our team’s performance, I wish I could have yelled more at the TV without being looked at weirdly.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship? Taking responsibility helps you grow. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be capable of taking on a major role within such a talented and well-functioning team, working on such a big project as the EU Open House.

What has been your biggest challenge living here? Saying goodbye to this job and all the friends I’ve made. It was equally hard and exciting to see my fellow interns come and go, to constantly meet new people, and to now finally leave this place with all the great memories that I’ve made. Looking back will probably be the biggest challenge yet to come.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship? I’m going to pursue my Master’s degree in International Public Management at Sciences Po Paris.