Today is St. Nicholas Day, which means that children woke up this morning to find he left them a treat in the night.
In this country, at least, it also means that yesterday (on the Eve) you could see groups of adults and teenagers in costumes wandering around handing out candy to children. It's kind of like Halloween and Christmas all in one!
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia Mikuláš (Nicholas) is traditionally celebrated on the fifth of December, when Mikuláš, anděl a čert (St. Nicholas dressed as a bishop, accompanied by an angel and a devil) visit children, ask if they have been good during the year, threaten to put them in the devil's bag and take them off to hell (if they haven't behaved), and ask them to recite a poem or sing a song (if they have) and hand out chocolate.
A lot of the time the children's dad will dress up as Mikuláš, or else a friend or neighbor, or there are children's events planned for the 5th as well, I think.
K's preschool got a visit from Mikuláš and his entourage yesterday morning. Her teacher said K was brave and wasn't afraid of the devil. The children sang a song and got their packages of sweets, which included a few peanuts and a potato. I liked the potato.
On the way home from school we ran into one of those wandering Mikuláš groups, with two čerti this time. But in the dark (it was a ballet day, so we were later than normal) and without her friends around, K's courage deserted her! She hid her face in my leg and refused to say a word.
They asked her to say a poem, sing a song, at least tell us your name, child...but she couldn't do any more than nod when they asked if she is nice to her baby brother. When they were asking her name, I said in her ear, "Go on, tell them 'I'm K'." She didn't, but then one of them said, "Oh, this is K, Mikuláš."
After a few minutes I got her to sing a song for them if I sang along, so we sang together and they gave her and M each a piece of chocolate.
As we walked home, she asked, "How did they know my name???"
I told her, "Maybe they're magic! ...Or maybe they heard me say your name, remember?"
And then this morning she woke up to find Mikuláš had left her some treats at home, too. The Slovak and I exchanged our Mikuláš goodies last night. Because you're never too old for chocolate.