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Did you ever wonder how Santa has room in his arms to carry all the gifts he brings children in each family he visits? Well, German youngsters know the answer: they believe that Santa's assistant or servant, "Knecht Reprecht", is near at hand to pass out the toys to good children and spank the bad ones with a special rod! Unlike Santa with his velvety robes and elegant accessories, "Knecht Reprecht" wears rough clothing and has a somewhat fierce appearance. His face may look as if it's been blackened by coal or ash--an occupational hazard, perhaps, for someone who slides down so many chimneys. Indeed, some Germans actually call him "ru-klas" or "Rough Nicholas". Legend suggests that his origins may be as a pagan spirit of some type, but today he is solidly Christian, checking children's attentiveness to their prayers and punishing them if their scriptural knowledge is lacking. "Knecht Reprecht" is quite the traveler, considering that his legend went along with the first German settlers to Pennsylvania. But on the American side of the Atlantic, he is less fearsome and more of a gentle and serious friend to youngsters. He also makes frequent appearances in Karlsruhe, the Residence-City of the German state of Baden.
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