Saint Nicholas, the Angel, and the Devil
If you walk in the Czech streets on the evening of December 5th, you can meet three characters: Mikuláš (Saint Nicholas), the Angel (Anděl), and the Devil (Čert). You can see many of them. They are here for the children and bring treats for them. This tradition is very popular. Some people also find it a bit controversial. Read on and see why.
Saint Nicholas has a specific appearance. He is a kind old man with a long beard, which is usually made of cotton wool or other suitable material. He holds a crook in his hand. The Angels are all dressed in white, they have a pair of fancy-looking wings, and they often wear a wig. The Angels also have an halo above their heads, usually made of aluminum foil. Angels represent beauty, kindness, and nobility. The Devils wear headbands with horns, they are dressed in red and black, and traditionally they use a piece of coal as make-up.
Making a Saint Nicholas – Angel – Devil trio is a popular part-time job with many students. They dress in costumes, go into the streets, and see children. The parents can arrange an appointment with the three of them. The encounter with the children looks like this: The children are encouraged to recite a nursery rhyme. Then they get presents, which consist mostly of candy, fruit, nuts, and other yummy things. The Devil gives them a piece of coal. This is an act of mischief. Most children like getting a piece of coal from the Devil.
This tradition can be fun for everyone involved. The controversial part is, that some children are scared stiff when they see the Devil. Especially when they are threatened to be taken away by him. Let’s have a closer look at the Czech cultural background. The Devil is a popular character in classical fairy tales. In these stories, the Devil is not depicted as someone scary. The Devil from fairy tales could be better described as someone mischievous, cute, clumsy, and friendly. Devils add a nice touch to Czech fairy tales. They often help the main character by providing him with magical objects or pieces of advice to outsmart his enemies.
The Devil from this tradition should also resemble the fairy-tale character described above. Of course, scary and creepy devils would probably get no business. The parents want to prepare something nice and memorable for their children. It should be a positive experience, not a frightening one. But some children are still afraid. Also, people can get scary masks quite easily. It’s something like Halloween. It’s possible to get cute masks and decorations as well as creepy ones that look as if they came from a horror movie. A lot of people wear scary devil masks, walk out into the streets, and have a very wild night accompanied by fireworks, loud music, and alcohol. You don’t have to be a small child to be honestly frightened of them.
This tradition might be considered controversial, but it depends a lot on how people present it to the children. When everything is carried out properly, without any threats and scary costumes, it can be an awesome experience.
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