I was in the Czech Republic for the exciting local holiday known as St. Mikolas's Day.
It's actually not that exciting, unless you're a kid. And if you're a kid, it's not so much exciting as terrifying. - that is, if you're a bad kid. For, St. Mikolas's Day was the holiday invented to give candy to good kids and to scare the grinning crap out of bad kids.
On this holiday, December 5th, adults in costumes can be seen walking the streets. They walk in three-somes. One is an angel, one is a devil, and the tallest one is always St. Mikolas. St. Mikolas looks like a tall, thin Santa Claus.
Little blond Klára Sigmundová, my friend, was a bad kid. (Some say she still is.) The only time her mom called for the people in costumes to visit their home was when Klára was four.
All day long, Klára was reminded that she was a misbehaving child. And while the angels come to take good children up above, the devils come to take bad ones down below. Little Klára was scared.
She was ready when the door-bell rang. She hid in a drawer in a dresser.
But, her mom came and got her. Her mom said, "This visitor is for you. You have to answer it." Her mom pushed her, against every will of her four-year-old body, to the door.
They opened the door. And there stood the devil. He probably put his fingers above his head like horns, and made the Czech devil sound which sounds like an American turkey, "Ubble-ubble-ubble-ubble-ubble!"
Klára, meanwhile, was surely white with terror. Tiny Klára then managed to leap up into the air somehow all the way up to her mom's shoulder's and climb up clinging around her mom's neck.
The mom quickly closed the door and said to the devil, "Thanks. That'll be enough." Poor tiny Klára.
It's surprising more Czech children haven't developed nervous twitches.
My Czech friend would gain her confidence back. The next significant event in her childhood came seven years later when she decided, without a doubt, that she and McCauley Culkin would marry.
And this year, she hid a package of chocolate for me in the apartment. I guess that means I've been good, thank god!
Nowadays, psychologists go on the radio saying how this tradition can be harmful and cause trauma in children. Klára and the other Czechs I've spoken to say that's nonsense.
I will admit this: the holiday isn't much worse than other Czech holidays, such as St. Shoot-Your-Kid-With-B.B.'s Day (September 18th), or Hide-Under-Your-Kid's-Bed-With-A-Scary-Mask-On-Until-He's-Almost-Asleep-Then-Shake-The-Bed-And-Grab-Him-With-A-Claw-While-Your-Spouse-Shuts-Off-The-Power-In-The-House Thursday (first week in March), or "Old-People-Tackling Week" (usually the whole month of June and often spills over into July).
Those Czechs sure make the holidays memorable.
- happy holiday season