Nikolaus Visits the Ecole!

Mittwoch, 04. Dezember 2013

by Daniel Davis Wood

There were countless slices of pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches consumed at the Ecole d'Humanité tonight, along with ice cream sundaes, chocolate brownies, gingerbread men, cookies, cups of hot cocoa, and much more, as members of the Ecole community came together to celebrate the arrival of a very special guest. Call him what you will — St. Nicholas or St. Nikolaus, Santa Claus or Father Christmas — but the man in the red suit showed up with his helpers to entertain Ecolianers as we enter the festive season.

Oriane sells popcorn at the Haupthaus market stall.

The night began with food and laughter at the annual Nikolaus Market. All Ecole families assembled in the Grossen Saal to create and decorate their own market stalls and then to persuade everyone else to purchase their goods or services. Some families sold the tasty treats mentioned above, while others performed ballet on demand, organized egg-and-spoon races and planking competitions, delivered letters from one student to another, and dressed up in costume and posed for portraits in exchange for a donation. The Haus Shanti family even sold hot chai lattes at a Starbucks café renamed in honor of Paul Geheeb, the founder of the Ecole d’Humanité, while the Osthaus Oben family opened a traditional American diner complete with greasy food and surly servants. All profits from everything sold at the market will be collected and sent to India to support two children whose education is partly funded by charitable events at the Ecole.

Click here to view a selection of photographs of the festivities.

After students had spent their money and all the food was gone, the Folkdance Performance Group put on an impressive show with a dance that required half of the group’s members to wear burning candles atop their heads. Then the lights were dimmed and everyone waited for Nikolaus to arrive...

Geheeb-Bucks and an American diner: just two of the market stalls on offer in the Grossen Saal.

Each year at the Ecole, a different family takes on the task of presenting Nikolaus to the community. Last year saw the Haus Shanti family taking the reins, and this year it was up to the Waldhaus family to escort Nikolaus onto the stage. A quick video presentation showed us how he found his way to our campus — with his reindeers out of service this year, he had to take a train uphill from Meiringen and then a soapbox racer downhill to the school — and, when the film was over, the doors to the Grossen Saal swung open and the man himself marched in with his Waldhaus assistants. He looked a little more suave than usual, having lost some weight and donned a pair of sunglasses, and he wasted no time in getting the festivities started.

Traditionally, the Nikolaus festivities give Ecolianers a chance to laugh at themselves and others as Nikolaus’ assistants invite certain students and teachers onstage for impromptu performances. Where did the laughs come from this year? Two of our school’s most renowned bodybuilders were asked to use poetry to express their admiration for each other’s muscles. Two teachers re-enacted the Morgensport activities that students from many years ago were required to do as soon as they climbed out of bed each day. Some of our youngest students were led through a childish singalong session, and some of our more fashionable students were asked to strut their stuff on a catwalk.

Nikolaus’ arrival at the Ecole is a favorite occasion of Ecole students and tends to be one of the most anticipated events of the year. This year’s arrival was no exception — and, thanks to all of our market merchants and the Waldhaus family, Nikolausfest 2013 was arguably one of the highlights of the year so far.