There are moments in life where you just need to stop and thank God for His sweet, sweet goodness. I had one of those moments on Wednesday night as I was downtown for the St. Mikulas (Nicholas) Day festivities at Staromestska Namesti (Old Town Square). As I stood there snapping the pic you see above I had moment where I needed to take a mental snapshot as a praise to God for getting me back here to Prague. Similar to Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown, but with a God-bent on it. Her character, Claire, would pretend to take a photo and it was a way for her to remember the moment; a way of sorts to go deep into the moment and not let it merely pass by as many human-beings do. There I stood in the midst of a sea of people trying to steady my hand to take a photo in focus, but I was actually attempting to steady my heart in gratitude to God. It is good to be here, my home.
Anyway, Christmas has descended upon Prague and I love it! Lights, trees, Christmas markets, seasonal scents, and little devils (or in Czech, Cert). Yes you read that right, little devils. On Wednesday they celebrated St. Mikulas Day (or St. Nicholas) and it is an experience to say the least. Of course, Mikulas, or Nicholas, is derived from the Bishop of Myra in Anatolia (which is in modern day Turkey). He is known for secret gift giving, giving away his wealth to the poor, and defending the defenseless. Click here for the Wikipedia article on Nicholas. Over the centuries different countries and regions remember him differently here in Czech it is very interesting.
Here is a quick rundown of the happenings (click here for the full article):
Traditionally, children received the visits at home, with the threesome played by family members or friends. This is still the case, although now groups of people offer to dress up as St Nicholas, the angel and Devil and visit families, for a fee. This may be worth considering if you are stuck for people to play the three roles. In other cases, the event is held outdoors, such as on Old Town Square in Prague, and there are other activities accompanying the trio’s wanderings, such as competitions and musical performances.
But whether the occasion is big or small it will always involve groups dressed as St Nicholas and co. They look for children, who are often rather scared by the sight of the trio, and ask them about if they’ve been good or bad over the last year. Good behavior is rewarded with sweets or small toys; bad behavior is punished with coal or potatoes, although I’ve yet to witness a child being subjected to this humiliation. If a child’s misdemeanors are judged to be particularly serious then he or she may be dragged off to hell in a sack has by the devil. Once the child has been rewarded (or chastised) the trio sets off for more victims to interrogate.
Very, very interesting. I don’t want to make any judgments about the tradition, but it is interesting to see the streets of Prague littered with devil horns during Christmas.
I did witness many small children crying in complete terror as they were chastised by a cert or certs. I also found it interesting to see St. Mikulas gingerbread cookies right next to gingerbread cookies with an appearance of Satan on them.
We even had the typical Mikulas visitors to our classroom on Wednesday and I received a potato because I wouldn’t sing (I was sick and didn’t have a voice).
I did get some video of the events downtown, I’ll try to get it up soon. Thanks for stopping by! Blessings to you this Christmas season and if you are terribly interested here is another article about Czech Christmas Customs and Supersitions. Be a revolution!