Greetings readers! It’s December and Christmas time is fast approaching. I do enjoy the build-up to Christmas in Czechland (even if I’m not the biggest fan of the menu on the big day — carp is just a bit too fishy in my view to be a feast).
I remember being a child and looking forward to Chrimbletide so much I thought I might explode. In England, advent — the seemingly endless twenty four days beforehand — can be a bit boring for a small person. Okay, there’s are those little chocolates to be retrieved from behind the doors of the calendar every day, Christmas cards to write out and swap at school, the tree to decorate, but otherwise, not much happens until the 25th.
If you’re a Czech child, the Christmas antics start a little earlier. December 5th (yes, that’s today people) is St Nicolas Day on which St Nicolas (aka Mikuláš), accompanied by an angel and a devil, roam the streets giving out gifts to the little ones who’ve behaved themselves all year.
So far, so good. What happens if you have been just a bit too naughty?
Why, the devil drags you off to hell, of course!
You have to hand it to the Czechs. They know how to instil discipline in children. It’s no good just bribing the little blighters with the promise of prezzies if they’re good; you need to have the big menacing stick of burning in hellfire for eternity if you play up* once too often.
St Nicolas is a busy chap on December 5th as you can imagine. He doesn’t just wander the streets but also visits children in their homes (by prior arrangement with their parents, naturally). Czechman will be reprising his starring role as Mikulas this year, accompanied by a couple of mates, including a particularly dashing male angel who looks worrying good in tights.
Of course, sadly, I can’t provide you with photo evidence of Czechman and co in action.
Instead the photo at the top is of some random strangers I managed to snap on my way home from Christmas shopping today — for Czechman’s niece. What a lovely girlfriend I am.
And let’s not forget the true essence of this time of year: wanton consumerism. Here are some free gifts that I was given in the street as a St Nicolas Day treat from various companies. No doubt they hope that if I try their shower gel, instant coffee and cup-a-soups, I’m destined to pop them in my basket on my next trip to the supermarket.
That’s all for now. I hope to bring you more stocking filler sized posts in the run-up to Christmas — which I’ll be spending in England. Watch this (cyber) space!
* ‘Play up’ is one of those tricky phrasal verbs Czech readers — ‘to play’ is of course, innocent kiddie behaviour, but ‘to play up’ means to misbehave. For example, ‘Stop playing me up or you’ll get a smack’ is one particular phrase which my father regularly used when discipling me. Was I frequently very naughty or was he just frequently hungover? Only those present at the time can say…