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BUTZBACH, Germany — In France, he’s known as Père Noel. In England, children refer to this December visitor as Father Christmas, while in the Netherlands they call him Sinterklaas.

All of this mattered not to American Brian Nagel, a bespectacled, 7-year-old boy who lives with his family in Butzbach. Seated with other fidgety children of his ilk, he waited Tuesday evening for St. Nicholas to appear.

“Santa is coming,” Brian said, his eyes widening. “He’s going to give us presents.”

Unbeknown to him and other children gathered outside in the picturesque Butzbach marketplace, the man of the hour was in the vicinity, having just arrived — shall we say for ambiguity sake — in a reddish-looking “vehicle” that can “fly” when called upon.

In many parts of Germany, Dec. 6 is St. Nicholas Day, when St. Nicholas makes the rounds placing candy and small gifts in children’s shoes left outside the door the night before — providing the child has been a good boy or girl during the year.

Brian was one of 125 American children signed up to meet St. Nicholas. Most of the children, guests of the city, hailed from the U.S. military communities of Butzbach and Giessen.

Every year, the 1st Armored Division band plays a holiday concert in Butzbach and city officials wanted to return the favor, especially since troops in the area will be deploying to Iraq next month.

“You have a second home here,” Mayor Oswin Veith told the children.

While some boys horsed around, Theresa Everson, 7, calmly enjoyed a powdered waffle. Theresa said she hoped ol’ Saint Nick would give her a certain doll.

“I’ve been thinking about [St. Nicholas’ visit] all day,” chimed in Claudisa Aguilar, who was seated nearby.

Claudisa and her family were among a group of residents from Roman Way Village who walked into town from the housing area.

“It didn’t take us long,” Elisa Aguilar said. The children “had us all walking quickly. It was fun.”

For St. Nicholas and his helpers, the fun began once pleasantries were exchanged and bags of goodies — chocolate, fruit and nuts — started getting passed out. However, St. Nicholas must have turned Christmas-red when his team came up short on the goodies, an oversight that was to be resolved Wednesday by some Giessen-based elves.

Watching the children go to town on the sweets before them, Mani Provencher, one of the American mothers, encouraged them to bite away.

“If you have any loose teeth,” she said, “now is a good time.”

Moments later, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dean Cook of the 16th Engineer Battalion arrived with a tray full of mugs containing hot chocolate.

This gesture by the city of Butzbach “is good for all the children,” Cook said. “My kids would’ve been upset if I hadn’t come.”


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