Countless traditions come with Christmas. Do you know what is the most popular advent holiday in the Czech Republic? Saint Nicholas Day (Svatý Mikuláš) in Czech – the charming tradition of St. Nicholas falls on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5. It is one of the few originally folk traditions in our country that has survived to this day. Did you know about St. Nicholas?
If you find yourself walking the streets on that evening, you may run into a group of strange characters: St. Nicholas (Mikuláš), the Angel (anděl) who represents the Good, and the Devil (čert) representing the Evil. All wear costumes. The figure of Nicholas is usually dressed in a long white shirt, like a coat, he has a long, embroidered gold thread, mostly in a combination of red and white. He wears a bishop’s cap, which is also red or white with a gold cross in front. In one hand he holds a long golden crutch (a bishop’s staff) and in the other a large bag of gifts. Nicholas is always taller than the others, with a long white beard.
How do we celebrate St. Nicholas?
The evening procession of St. Nicholas, the devil and the angel is generally known in our country. The kind word of Mikuláš but also the scary look of the devil certainly belongs to the strongest children’s experiences to this day. According to folk belief, every year on December 5, St. Nicholas descends from heaven to earth, walks around houses and together with the devil and the angel, distributes treats and fruits to good children as well as coal and potatoes to naughty children. Nicholas, the devil and the angel ask the children and their parents how they behaved in the past year. If kids want to be sure of the reward and avoid being “taken” to hell, most kids sing a song or recite a short poem. While St. Nicholas aroused sacred reverence in the children and the angel peace and quiet, the devil was in charge of driving the children who were angry with fear.
Parents bring their children to the main squares in big cities, where they all can witness the tradition later in the evening. In small towns and villages, the three characters visit people’s homes. It is also customary for parents to order St. Nicholas, an angel and a devil to come home to scare children who may be naughty during the year. Parents often ask family members to change into costumes and come to startle their kids! This tradition is also still celebrated in kindergarten and in primary and secondary schools! Even though the feast of St. Nicholas is on the calendar on December 6, Nicholas with the devil and an angel is celebrated on December 5 in the early evening. The evening of December 5 is an exciting (and scary) time for children!
This tradition is a great experience, especially for children, but it is also an opportunity to gift adults with some chocolate. On St. Nicholas Day children usually receive the Advent Calendar – sometimes also the adults because everyone wants to count down the days until Christmas, right?
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