|Before the Reformation children received gifts on St Nicholas' Day, i.e. on 6 December, and not on Christmas Eve. In many countries that is still the case. But Luther turned against the veneration of saints and that was why he stressed the value of Christmas over against that St Nicholas' Day. The one bringing the gifts at the festival of Christ's birth was, for him, the Christ Child, in keeping with his belief that the child in God's crib was a gift to the world. Thus he introduced the custom of remembering the Christ Child. Yet Luther himself was not very strict in observing this principle. He had too soft a heart and had married late. He gave his children three lots of presents - on St Nicholas' Day, on Christmas Eve and at New Year.
In her book Luthers Weihnachten (Luther's Christmas), Elke Strauchenbruch tells the story of the Christmas festival with particular reference to the customs of Central Germany. Luther greatly influenced that region with his insistence on focusing on the birth of Christ. The reader learns about the Christmas customs that started during the Reformation and that people have enjoyed practising until today.
Luther and family at Christmas - as a German artist of the 19th century imagines the scene. In reality Luther never had a Christmas tree in his home - this custom started half a century after his lifetime.
But the presents are real - Luther started giving presents to his chiildren at Christmas.