St. Nicholas’s Day in Prague
I fondly remember celebrating St. Nicholas’s Day as a child at church. One of the older men in the congregation would dress up in the traditional bishop’s robes of St. Nicholas and pass out gigantic, soft gingerbread cookies to us.
The Czechs also celebrate St. Nicholas’s Day, or Mikulas in Czech, but they do it with a sinister twist.
Around 5 o’clock this evening groups of three dressed like St. Nicholas, a devil and an angel set out into the night to judge the children of the Czech Republic and decide which ones have been naughty or nice. The ones who behave get candy while the bad ones get shoved into the devil’s sack to be “taken to hell”.
Most of this revelry was centered around the Old Town Square Christmas Market which was jam-packed with Czechs and tourists alike wearing glowing devil horns or angel wings.
While the children aren’t literally taken to hell, they do get literally put in a burlap sack and dragged around the square. Terrifying, right? Some Czechs defend this tradition by saying it “builds character”. I suppose this is true.
This was simultaneously one of the funniest and most terrifying things I have ever witnessed as parents stood back and had a good laugh as their children were mentally scarred.
It made me think of all of those Santa Clauses in malls across America having to deal with screaming, crying children. If American children are scared of a jolly man there to give them gifts, they probably would have peed their pants if they saw these devils gallivanting around Prague tonight who threw explosive rocks and yelled in children’s faces all in the name of a good laugh.
While I did see many crying children here, there were also quite a few who looked like they were enjoying it. They must have been the well-behaved ones who had nothing to fear.
I saw at least five of these trifectas wandering the square and several more on the metro on my way home. A majority of them were teens. I can imagine that they were just trying to retaliate for being tormented as a small child.