Mikuláš is back – and attempting to break records

On the evening of December 5, Mikuláš – or Saint Nicholas as he is known in the English-speaking world – will be making his comeback in Czechia after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: Dalibor Glück,  ČTK

Last year, many municipal and local Mikuláš celebrations were cancelled, with the health minister advising Czechs against inviting Mikuláš troupes into their homes and to wear respirators when partaking in the festivities outdoors. In 2020, the situation was even worse, with restrictions still in place regarding the number of people allowed to gather in one place and with rules regarding masks and social distancing, leading many to have their Mikuláš events online and causing the interest in virtual Mikuláš visits to skyrocket.

This year, however, Mikuláš is back in full swing. For example, a rich programme awaits children in the Moravian town of Uherské Hradiště from 3pm, including carol singing, competitions, and jugglers.

Ivana Zůbková, director of the Šikula Children's Home which is helping to organise the event, elaborates.

Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

“The devils and angels will arrive by horse-drawn carriage and we will wait together for the arrival of Saint Nicholas, who should come down to us in Masaryk square at around 5 pm from the left tower of the church.”

In Brno, children will be able to get gifts from Saint Nicholas not only in the town square, but also on the tram, says Hana Tomaštíková, spokesperson for the Transport Company of the City of Brno.

“Just like every year, we’ll bring mothers, fathers, and grandparents with children to our city’s Mikuláš festivities – except this time there will also be Saint Nicholas, the devil and the angel on the tram, who will listen to a song or poem from the children and give them a small reward in return.”

Photo: Chmee2,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY 3.0

Saint Nicholas will also be making an appearance on Republic Square in Pilsen – or rather, several Saint Nicholases. According to the mayor of the central Pilsen district, David Procházka, the town is attempting to set a new record.

“We want to try to fill the square this evening with Saint Nicholases, angels and devils, because we’re trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest number of people gathered in one place wearing Mikuláš masks. After 8pm, every person who comes wearing a mask will get a free drink, so I believe that we will be able to photograph a square full of masks.”

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

Mikuláš, or Saint Nicholas, is the patron saint of, among other things, sailors, fishermen, travellers, merchants, wealth, happy marriages, pharmacists, lawyers and children. It is primarily with children in mind that Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in Czechia and other countries, mostly around Europe.

Although the tradition is largely absent from Anglophone countries, it can be found in places settled by Europeans hailing from countries with a history of the tradition, such as Dutch, German, and Czech communities in North America. Saint Nicholas Day is on 6th December, but in the Czech Republic it is celebrated on the eve of the patron saint’s day – the night of 5th December.