Written by Hellena Lorenz
The Czech tradition goes that on the evening before the 6th of December, during the night, the Saint Nicholas visits the houses where children live and brings them presents, which vary depending on whether the child is good or bad.
In the old tradition a bad child gets a bag of coal or potatoes, a good one gets sweets, nuts or apples, maybe even a little doll or a car, whatever the family could afford. The tradition is similar to that of Santa Claus in the USA, or St. Nicholas in some European countries. Things change, and kids these days go mostly for the material aspect of this tradition, parents give in, and so the stalkings are filled with coins, GI Joes, Furbys and I don’t know what.
But in my day, which now seems long ago, this day was still the way it should have been.
On the morning of Svateho Mikulase, my sis and I woke up with a start. what will we be finding in our stalkings the next day? We were stressing over that the whole night, having dreams of nice fashionable erasers with the pictures of Snow White on them, maybe even some hair thingies we so loved. But what it will really be? Nobody would tell us.
We would fret over who was nicer during the year, who minded the parents more, who got better grades, who ate all the food, who was cleaning up our room, or who helped more in the kitchen. These little arguments or lamentations got us nowhere. Of course I would always be the better one if you asked me, and my sis would tell you the exact opposite. And our parents? They would just nod and smile, not passing any judgements, or giving any kind of hints.
It is Svaty Mikulas who knows best after all.
As the day went by, we tried to buy out our little sins that we commited during the year, by being extra nice. We practiced our little poems and proverbs, so when the Sv. Mikulas comes, we could show off and get the sweets. We would practice piano all day and sing, making sure the Sv. Mikulas will be satisfied, and on the account of our performance will maybe overlook a thing or two. Finally, the stars came out, and our excitement grew rapidly. We would stare from the vindows and anticipated the procession of the Sv. Mikulas, the Devil and the Angel.
Many times the parents would actually hire a group, that would than take care of all of us kids of the neighborhood, even further making us believe the Sv. Mikulas went through all the houses with kids.
Finally there was a knock on the door. My sis looked at me with fear. Is it going to be good or bad? Mom opened the door and there they were, Sv. Mikulas, the Angel and the Devil. And Mikulas aksed us: ” Girls, were you nice over the whole year?”
We just smiled shyly.
Mikulas went on:” Marketko, I have heard you bite the kids in the butt in the kindergarten?”
My sis started crying: “How does he know that?” The Devil started to roll his eyes and went on: ” Hahahaha, I get to take you with me!” My sis was really screaming by then. I was pretty scared too.
Then Mikulas turned to me: “And I heard you curse and scratch you sister when you fight?”
I was about to burst into tears, but then decided othervise. “But she takes my clothes without asking me!”
And my sis:” And she does not practice piano and then tells our mom she did!”
And on and on it went.
Finally, Mikulas smiled and said:” Well, you are not so bad, but you have to sing me a song or recite a poem if you want to be forgiven.”
We started our little production and waited for the final verdict. If Mikulas did not like our performance, the Devil would take us with him. If Mikulas liked what he heard, the Angel would give us the presents. Mikulas gestured for the Angel.
The next morning we ran to our stalkings. “Cool,” we thought, “The eraser and hair thingies!”
And that is how Sv. Mikulas day went by in our family.
Hellenka is a Czech Native, living in the USA.