vianoceAlthough the role of gift-giver on Christmas Day itself is assigned to the Christ Child, on the eve of Saint Nicholas’ feast day of 6 December East European children, as I was one of them, traditionally place boots (the bigger, the better) on their windowsill waiting for Mikulás to come by and fill it with treats.

In Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia, Mikulas/Miklavž often comes with two assistants: a good Angel who gives out presents to good children and a “Krampusz”, a mean elf, in some version a Devil, who punishes bad children.

On 5 December, they come to the houses where small children live and give them some presents. While “good” children receive various fruits, candies and toys, “bad” children can expect nothing more than a wooden spoon, coal or a willow switch (“virgács”) left by Krampusz. (However, as no one is all good or all bad, most children get both sweets and a switch.

1481308-img-mikulas-cert-andelTo earn some extra money, students often act as Mikuláš, the Angel, and the Devil. Treats are traditionally sweets, chocolate, candy and different nuts. In modern times, chocolate Santa figures are most common. To get the presents, the boots must be polished, because Santa does not fill boots that are not shiny enough.

Bad kids may also get onions, raw potatoes or a lump of coal in their boots next to their presents as a warning that next year they might get only these.

Although presents are usually given to children by parents, it is not uncommon between adults to place small surprises (such as presents or a virgács) into the boots of others……and having fun and warm drink to celebrate time of Christmas.

Veronika, in remembering  her time of Christmas