Czech Traditions: St. Nicholas Day

On a certain day of the year in the Czech Republic, a revered man in a white beard asks children if they have been good or bad. If they have been good, a white angel bestows upon them gifts of candies and sweets. But, if they have been bad, the devil comes and carries them off to hell in a sack! For obvious reasons, there are a lot of very frightened children every year on December 05th: Saint Nicholas (Mikuláš) Day (see the picture below for confirmation).
St Nicholas DayA friend who works at a preschool told me that every single child was shaking in fear and on the verge of tears because they were so scared that the devil would come to take them away! Another friend who babysits two children after school every day said that on December 06th, they were behaving pretty horribly. Safe to say, St Nicholas Day is clearly an effective behavioral tool….at least when it comes to children…and at least until the next day.

As I was walking to my class that night, I saw many an adult with light-up devil’s horns on their heads. It’s interesting how children will quake at the idea of the devil while adults love the idea of misbehaving. I also saw a flaming baton twirler (posing as the devil, of course) and an angel off to the side along the edges of the crowd, handing out candy to little children. Of course, this is what happens in the big city of Prague; in the smaller villages, the angel and demon travel to each home to steal children and hand out candy.Flame Batons SmallPersonally, this sounds like a backwards version of Halloween…as the adults dress-up and the candy is brought to the children…with a little bit of Santa thrown in there…with the bit about being “naughty or nice”. Of course, I am never going to deny any excuse for the presence of a flaming baton twirler.

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