Saint Mikuláš is sometimes translated as “Santa” but is more rooted to the historical character Santa is also based on – St. Nicholas, who was an actual bishop in the third century. According to the myth, this bishop was very interested in the moral development of young church members, so parents would inform him of their kids’ good and bad behavior. When St. Nick then mentions these deeds to the kids, they come to view him as an all-knowing authority.
This idea of parents ratting you out to an important stranger still lives strong. A proper Czech Mikuláš event includes Mikuláš, an angel, and a devil. The angel beams sweetly and holds a basket of treats. The devil does typical devil things like rattle a chain, stick out his tongue, and say “bububu”. This frightens local kids senseless, and I’ve even heard adults describe it as their earliest traumatic memory. The devil may give coal to naughty children, and threaten to stuff them in a sack and drag them down to Hell. Foreign kids seem largely unfazed – my kids just pulled his tail and said “bububu” right back.
What to know: many young kids have a Mikuláš visit at their school, often without the devil, because he is considered too scary. But if you go outside on the 5th, you’ll see more devils than angels, because most teenagers who dress up for the occasion prefer to be the devil. Devils have more fun. They get to terrorize younger children. Your role in all this is that of talent agent: rehearse beforehand so your kids have one strong song they know by heart and can sing out loud. Then, work the crowd, scoping out which angels have the best goodies in their basket. Push your kids in front of them and make them sing. Even the most basic version of “Jingle Bells” will have these teens so impressed – singing in a foreign language? They’ll give twice as many treats for this, I’ve noticed. Quickly walk up to another trio and repeat. This is a lot like trick-or-treating: you have to work fast and cover lots of ground to build up your stash before all the candy runs out.
Make Mikuláš work for you: who doesn’t want to manipulate their kids into behaving well? After all, Santa works along the same lines, but there’s a long wait before Christmas, and Santa doesn’t have a dark companion who threatens kids. Using the Mikuláš approach, you can scare the crap out of them much sooner, and maybe that way they can build up really good behavior by Christmas.
For some kids, it’s hard to process that there is one Santa who lives in the North Pole and then another Santa at the mall. They will freak out even more to see hundreds of Mikuláš characters milling around in one square. I’m not sure how Czech parents handle this inconsistency – anyone?
Below is a list of places where you can make your Mikuláš experience happen. Please note: some events happen the 2nd or 3rd, any many will happen Sunday the 4th – but the “street” experience will always happen on the exact day – the 5th.
Palladium – In addition to the official Mikulas, there’s one in Sparky’s toy store and another in kids’ gaming and entertainment center Hrad Zábavy on the top floor.
Monday, Dec. 5th, 14:00 – 15:00
Your Own Home – Some people order a Mikuláš trio to come knocking at their door for a private show.
At the Circus – Combine a trip to the Cirkus Cirkus with a Mikuláš experience, until Dec. 6th.
Kampa – Children 20.- Adults 40.- but only kids get treats. Reserve a spot at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents may also sneek a more personalized gift with child’s name on it to Mikulas as you enter the room.
Dec. 5 from 16:00 – 18:00
Ice Hockey Mikulas – Sports fan will love seeing Mikuláš cruise around with his mates and the Sparta club team. Expect contests, clowns and a spot of refreshments. Bring you skates to join in. All free!
Monday, Dec. 5 from 16:00-18:00
Šestka: Shopping, Mikuláš, and a guest appearance by celebrity child entertainer Dáda.
Saturday, Dec. 3, from 11:00
Letňany – Kulturního domu Letňanka: includes zumba dancing, mini disco, and a show.
Saturday, Dec. 3, from 15:00
Public Transport – Get on board the Mikuláš tram – or the Mikuláš metro.
Saturday, Dec. 3, from 14:00-18:00
For Creative Kids – Come join the Mikuláš crafts workshop and make your own Christmas ornaments. Free svařák for adults, but kids have to sing a little song to get any treats.
Novodvorská – On Dec. 5th, here’s another event.
Malá Strana – Monday, Dec. 5th from 16:00.
Outdoor : Christmas Markets
From late November until Christmas – and not one day after the 24th – you can find Christmas markets at every major square in Prague. Basically, if it’s a stop on the metro, and the name includes the word “náměstí”, chances are good you’ll find a charming outdoor market. Some are more elaborate than others – with skating rinks (Václavské náměstí), farmers’ markets (Dejvická) or live animals in life-size nativity scenes (Staroměstké náměstí and Kotva, for example), but at all of them you will be able to buy ornaments, svařák, and gift items.
What are your experiences with Mikuláš?