As a kid, I always looked forward to celebrating St. Nicholas’s Day in early December, when one of the older men at my church would dress up as St. Nicholas in traditional bishop’s robes and pass out delicious gingerbread cookies the size of my head.
Czechs also celebrate St. Nicholas’s Day (Mikuláš in Czech), but they do it with a sinister twist.
On December 5, groups of three dressed as St. Nicholas (Mikuláš), a devil (čert), and an angel (anděl) set out into the night to judge the children of the Czech Republic to decide which ones have been naughty or nice. The good ones get candy. The bad ones get shoved into the devil’s sack to be “taken to hell.”
I was lucky enough to witness this spectacle a few years ago. While the children of course aren’t literally dragged to hell, some are given a good scare by the devil, while their parents stand back and have a good laugh as their children are mentally scarred.
It made me think of all of those Santa Clauses in malls across America having to deal with screaming, crying children. If American children are scared of a jolly man who wants to give them gifts, they probably would pee their pants if they saw these trios gallivanting around Prague.
Click here to see a slideshow of Mikuláš festivities in Prague's Old Town Square.
Lyndsey Matthews is an online editorial intern for Travel + Leisure.