The feast of Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas In the Czech Republic there is a very nice tradition of celebrating Saint Nicholas eve. Nicholas was a pious man, a bishop of Myra (in today’s Turkey) who lived in 3rd and 4th century. In those times, when Christians were persecuted, he did a lot in order to help them and was very popular for his charitable activities.

There are a few legends about him, the most known is probably that one, which says how he saved there poor young sisters. Their father had no money, so the girls were about to become prostitutes to make their living. Nicholas heard of it, and at night, when no one could have seen him, threw three purses filled with golden coins into the house, so the sisters were saved. Nicholas inherited a lot of money from his rich parents and thus he gave many other anonymous gifts to the poorest people. Later it was found, that the benefactor was he, and after his death, rich people were anonymously gifting the poor ones in his honor.

Saint Nicholas day is on 6th of December. In the Czech Republic, it is celebrated the evening before it, on 5th. Saint Nicholas goes to homes where they have little children. He is accompanied with an angel and a devil, sometimes there can be even more angels and devils. Nicholas usually has a thick book, where he has written what the kids did through out the year. The devil threads them for their little sins, and angel with Nicholas give them gifts for being nice. They often have to promise to behave better the next year and can sing a song, tell a short poem or a prayer; sometimes they even draw a picture in advance for Saint Nicholas and his companions.

The feast has a very long tradition in Czech. In the past, Nicholas was often accompanied not only with devils and angels, but also by other allegorical figures, especially in the country. Here, naughty children were often chased by devils on the village’s main square.

So if you are in Prague on 5th of December, it is worth it to take a walk in the city after the sunset. You can admire wonderful masks of Nicholases, beautiful angels and scary devils. Traditionally, the biggest meeting of them takes place on Old Town Square every year.

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