The biggest event in Czechia, which comes right before Christmas, is St. Nicholas day. Mikulas is due to come on the eve of the 5th December, and though this is meant to be a festive evening and a way to mark the beginning of Christmas, it also leaves many children terrified.
The story of Mikulas (St. Nicholas)
The tradition goes that on the eve of 5th December, Mikulas visits children with his two helpers, an angel, and a devil. His appearance and outfit are very similar to the one of Santa Claus, wearing a long beard and carrying a stick with him. The whole reason why Mikulas exists is to know whether children have been good during the year or not. If they have, then they will be rewarded with candy, or else they will be punished.
As Mikulas walks around with the angel and the devil, if the kids were good during the year, they are asked to recite a song or a poem, and then they can get candy from the angel. If they were misbehaving during the year, they get coal and potatoes from the devil. In case some kids very poorly behaved, the devil threatens to put them into his massive sack and tells them that they would go to hell.
Where can you find Mikulas and his helpers?
Traditionally (or in the old days), Mikulas would go around the village and visit every home. Today the tradition continues, especially in smaller communities and villages, where friends or parents are willing to dress-up as Mikulas, the devil, and the angel. They visit every house, knowing which kids were good and which misbehaved during the year. The group that would volunteer to carry out the tradition would be rewarded or paid by the rest of the parents with food, as well as alcohol, which would make the tradition even more fun for adults (but not always for the kids).
However, today, this tradition has been brought into public spaces, main squares, and Christmas markets all over Czechia. Everyone will know when the three are on their way, as you can hear the devil’s chains drag against the floor. This really intimidates and scares the children, especially the younger ones. On this day and for this specific tradition, many people also decide to dress up, or get a costume, though this is not obligatory, it does make the occasion more festive.
Mikulas at Prague’s Christmas market
To experience the scary tradition and arrival of Mikulas and his two friends, try to visit any Christmas market in Czechia on the eve of the 5th of December. For anyone who is in Prague that day, I recommend heading over to the Old Town Square, where you will find numerous Christmas stalls, filled with food, drinks, and ornaments. In the hours of the late afternoon and evening, get yourself a glass of mulled wine, as you await the arrival of Mikulas, the devil, and the angel.
Old town squareOld Town Square, Staroměstské nám., 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město, Czechia
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