Today’s word is the name of a special day here in Slovakia, coming up this week:
This is the shortened name of Saint Nicholas – Svätý Mikulaš – on whom our Santa Claus is based. Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek bishop known giving secret gifts – according to legend, he would sometimes place coins in shoes that were left outside (see Wikipedia article here). Like many Catholic saints he has his own feast day on which his life is celebrated: December 6.
On the night of December 5, many European children put out their boots, either on window-sills or by doors.. On the morning of December 6, they’ll find them filled… with candy, fruits or small gifts if they were good this year, with coal if they were not. On that day someone dressed as Mikulaš might also appear in towns, villages or schools. He usually wears red and has a thick white beard, but his outfit here in Slovakia is more religious – with a staff, a tall mitre hat, and a robe that sometimes has a cross. While we haven’t yet seen Mikulaš, we’ve been told he sometimes appears with two helpers – an angel and a devil – who can give him an up-to-date report on any child’s behavior (see pictures above and below).
To Slovaks, December 6 is known simply as “Mikulaš.” We look forward to sharing more firsthand information once we’ve experienced our first Mikulaš here this week!