St Nick hasn't been nixed

2006-11-30 22:34
Vienna - Santa Claus can still come to town, Vienna officials said on Thursday to calm an outcry over mistaken reports the jolly mythical figure had been banned from traditional pre-Christmas visits to kindergartens.

Officials were fending off headlines that Santa - also known as St Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Father Christmas - was no longer welcome to hand out sweets to good little girls and boys because he tended to scare them.

"What we are concerned about is to have a St Nicholas that doesn't seem threatening," Monika Sperber, a spokesperson for deputy mayor Grete Laska, said.

The municipality issued a statement on Thursday explaining it wanted to ensure children were not frightened by Santa's visits by having only adults they know dress up in the traditional red bishop's habit.

"There has never been a ban on St Nicholas in Vienna's kindergartens," Laska said in a statement.

Through her spokesperson, Laska denied speculation in Austrian media that the reported clampdown on St Nicholas was an act of "political correctness" to avoid offending the increasing number of Muslim immigrant children in Austrian schools.

In Christian tradition St Nicholas - dating from the 4th century - is a jolly figure who brings sweets and small gifts to well-behaved boys and girls.

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