Santa Claus isn’t really a thing in the Czech Republic, but you wouldn’t know it going by local advertising among stores selling Christmas goods.
While Svatý Mikuláš is based on the same real-life figure as Santa – St. Nicholas – his appearance and tradition is markedly different. Along with a devil and an angel, Mikuláš visits Czech children on the night of December 5 to see if they’ve been good or not (and it’s Ježíšek, or Baby Jesus, who ultimately delivers the gifts on Christmas Eve.)
But Santa Claus has been slowly seeping into Czech culture over the recent years, and it now appears that he’s overtaken the more traditional local depictions of Christmastime on Czech billboards and leaflets.
According to analysis by Česká distribuční, which produces many of the advertising leaflets used by major retailers, Santa has become more and more prevalent in Christmas campaigns, and this year has overtaken Mikuláš.
During November campaigns, Santa Claus appeared in 23 advertising leaflets produced by the company – – nearly twice the number of Mikuláš, who appeared in only 12.
Still, the agency doesn’t predict the end of Mikuláš.
“I do not think the Czech Mikuláš is at risk,” says Česká distribuční Director Petr Sikora.
“Leaflets are primarily intended to show consumers the breadth of supply, so it is logical that we will find mainly non-traditional products, news, or popular children’s characters before Christmas.”
It wasn’t just Santa Claus, as other non-Czech imagery dominated Christmas advertising campaigns. Foreign characters – including Santa Claus, Angry Birds, My Little Pony, and Emojis accounted for 43% of the advertising seen on local flyers and leaflets.
Czech imagery, including Mikuláš, angels and devils, the Little Mole, and illustrations from iconic artist Josef Lada, accounted for only 28% of the advertising. Neutral imagery, including snowmen and Christmas trees, made up 29% of the material.
What was Mikuláš hawking? Nearly 50% of advertising featuring the Czech St. Nick was promoting chocolate; 10% was for sweets & candy, and 5% for other snack items.