In Prague on 5 December in the late afternoon, the cobbled alleys, winding lanes and ancient squares of the Old Town swarm with people dressed up as Saint Nicolas, Mikulás in Czech, and his retinue: an angel representing good and a devil representing evil. The trio walks the streets, stopping children who've been raised on the local Christmas legend and know just what to expect.
Saint Nicolas asks each child if he or she has been good all year, and most answer with a resounding "yes," knowing they'll receive treats from the angel after singing a local tune. Be wary of saying no, however. Children are brought up to believe that naughty children go home with a sack of potatoes or coal, or if they've been really bad, get carried off with the devil.
St Nicolas aka Santa in Prague — Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone
Join the merriment and don Angels' wings or Devils' horns. Don't worry if you did not bring these. Newly opened Carnival Shop at Wenceslas Square, only a few steps from Muzeum Metro stop, stocks wings, halos, devils' horns and tridents in all sizes.
When you have seen enough Mikulás threesomes, amble about the booths of the Christmas Markets at Old Town Square or Wenceslas Square. Buy Christmas trinkets and mulled wine, or be Czech with the Czechs and gulp beer. No visit to Prague is complete without a large mug of cool Pilsner Urquell, even in winter.