Prague, where St. Nick Czechs in Early
Children in the Czech Republic need not wait until December 25th to receive their gifts from the big fella coming down their chimneys. On the eve of St. Nicholas day, December 5th, you’ll see a charming tradition.
In the streets of Prague’s Old Town Square, you will run into a strange group of characters. St. Nicholas, an Angel and the Devil – all in costumes – stop children and ask if they’ve been naughty or nice. Most say, “yes” and are rewarded with candy and other treats, which are handed out by the Angel.
In other small Czech villages, the three characters meander from home to home asking the same question. Children also receive St. Nicholas presents from their parents and relatives, sometimes hidden in their rooms.
St. Nicholas is the most popular name for the Greek Saint Nikolaos of Myra who had a reputation for secret gift giving. He is said to have left money on the windowsill of three poor girls to enable them to get married. If someone left out a pair of shoes for him, Nikolaos would throw in coins. This legend is the supposed basis for gift giving on Christmas.
So who is Santa Claus? This Americanized name comes from the Dutch word, “Sinterklass,” and probably came to pass when the Dutch inhabited New York.