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The Holiday of Saint Nicholas

For the last two years I have written here about the Czech Christmas traditions. The gifts are brought by baby Jesus and his little angel helpers on the evening of the 24th, the traditional Christmas dinner is potato salad and a fried carp, who lives in a family bath-tub for about a week before the father of the familly kills it and cooks it, etc. This year I would like to tell you about another winter holiday in my country.

It is the holiday of Saint Nicholas on the 6th of December. I think Santa actually evolved from the Saint Nicholas character but the tradition in Czech is different. On this day, some people dress up as Saint Nicholas, an angel and a devil. This trio (or more if there is more angels and more devils) will walk around town and maybe even go to people’s houses, looking for children to ask them if they behaved well last year. The child usually says a poem or sings a song and it’s usually their parents who tell the Saint Nicholas whether or not their child misbehaves.
If the child is good, Saint Nicholas will reward it and give him or her some candy. If, on the other hand, if the child was bad, it will get coal and potatoes and the devil will promise to take the child to hell if it doesn’t behave better. Angel’s job is to calm down the devil and to tell the child that it doesn’t have to be scared as long as it works on its behavior.
This works, I remember, not that I ever misbehaved when I was little, or now, but the devils usually run around, they have chains, scary masks and costumes, they make a lot of noise and they do carry around big bags for the bad children to take them to hell. When I got older, I also remember dressing up as Saint Nicholas with my friends and being the one who decides whether the child gets candy or coal.
Here are some photos:

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