St. Nicholas traditions return, but Czech health officials recommend caution

While last year saw drive-ins and online celebrations this year the saint and his partners will keep a "pitchfork's" distance. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 03.12.2021 15:36:00 (updated on 07.12.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

While last year's St. Nicholas celebrations saw a unique devil drive-in and plenty of online visits from the saint and his cohorts, this year Mikuláš returns but with a note of caution from Czech health authorities amid worsening pandemic conditions.

So what will change this year and what do families who celebrate need to know?

Holiday traditions haven't been spared from the effects of inflation this year, with prices already climbing when it comes to classic holiday items such as carp, cookies, and sweets. According to the Czech Deník daily, the Mikuláš tradition is also more costly this year.

This Dec. 5-6, however, traditional visits from Mikuláš and company are costing parents more: roughly 300-500 CZK per visit as reported by families interviewed by Deník.

Increases vary depending on the festive goodies brought by the saint, but many families are already choosing to hire cousins or other family members to play the roles instead in a bid to save money and avoid contact with strangers.

Once again this year, the troubling Covid situation is leading to other changes that affect the tradition, with festive trios being kept a pitchfork's length away.

In the European advent calendar, St. Nicholas (Mikuláš) pays a visit to children during the first week of December, bearing gifts of chocolate, walnuts, and oranges to the well-behaved. The patron saint of prostitutes and thieves is traditionally accompanied by a devil (Čert) and an angel (Anděl). The former has the role of carrying away “naughty” kids in a sack — the threat of which tends to keep Czech kids in line throughout the year.

A particularly evil-looking example of a Čert in the Czech Republic / photo Wikimedia Commons, QARISPOL, Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 3.0
A particularly evil-looking example of a Čert in the Czech Republic / photo Wikimedia Commons, QARISPOL, Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 3.0

Health officials say people observing the custom should strictly adhere to essential anti-Covid measures.

"Everyone should have respiratory protection in place. That means not only Mikuláš and his party, but also everyone else present. Everyone should wear respiratory protection indoors, and also ventilate thoroughly after the visit," a spokesperson for the state hygiene department said. The hygiene department also recommends holding visits outdoors wherever possible. 

It's also recommended that Mikuláš only visits households where everyone in attendance has sufficient protection against Covid, either through vaccination or a previous infection within the last 180 days. In the spirit of respect and safety, it's wise to make sure that levels of Covid immunity are discussed as a preliminary step to arranging a visit.

Earlier today Czech Health Minister recommended avoiding the visits entirely. "Given the situation, we find ourselves in, I would not recommend that these family visits take place. This poses a risk. I certainly do not assume that St. Nicholas, the devil, and the angel would wear respirators," he said.

Few could have foreseen the day when vaccination and non-infectivity would be terms under discussion in connection with St. Mikuláš, his angel, and his devil. But concerned youngsters in the Czech Republic shouldn't worry too much; the Baby Jesus, and Santa Claus for many expat families, are fully expected to do their rounds as usual this year.

St. Mikuláš events in Prague

  • St. Nicholas will arrive on Dec. 5, at 4 pm in front of Bio Oko which will serve hot chocolate prior to a family-friendly screening of "My Neighbor Totoro."
  • Manifesto Florenc and Anděl have Mikuláš events planned at both locations on Dec. 5.
  • A Mikuláš on Ice event will take place at Smíchov ice staking rink at 10 am on Dec. 5
  • An open-air Mikuláš theater performance will take place at DOK16 on Dec. 5.
  • Prague 3 organizes an annual event on Jiřího z Poděbrad Square on Dec. 5.
  • See more events here.
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