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Because for Children, I would do anything! / St. Nicholas aka Mikuláš in San Diego

And here it is, the traditional St. Nicholas celebration that is the beginning of the Christmas season for many European families! And it was AMAZING, not only a beautiful show of children's talent to sing and recite in the tongue of their parents, to play an instrument, but it was also a surprising parade of children who behaved so well! Viva parents!

And so, with the help of beautiful songs, poems, dances, fairy tales, and children's virtuosity on ukulele, piano and banjo, about forty Czech, Slovak, and American children turned a rainy Saturday afternoon of the second December week into a sunshine of smiles and wide opened eyes full of wonder and joy!

As we celebrate the good-humored St. Nicholas, known as Mikuláš, a European tradition 700 years old, we remind ourselves that Mikuláš, the second most popular saint in Europe (after Mary, mother of Jesus), is an advocate for good hard working people not treated well. The original story goes like this: A widower had three

daughters. The only way for them to marry is to have a dowry. Even though all four of them work hard, there is not enough to put aside...If the girls will not get marry, they are to be sold into slavery. St. Nicholas learns about the hardship of this hardworking and kind family, and decides to reward them for their diligence, good deeds and wide heart. One day, when the girls are drying their stockings on the fireplace mantel, St. Nicholas climbs to the chimney and tosses down three pieces of gold. It just happens that each piece finds its way to one stockings of each girl!!

And so, ever since 1300's (St. Nicholas lived in 4. century), the tradition describes St. Nicholas rewarding children for their behavior, visiting them on December 5. He gives sweets, apples and nuts to the good ones, and if you were naughty, you may find in your package a potato or a pieces of coal! The tradition also calls for a poem or a song that each child performs for the special trio of Mikuláš, angel and a good hearted devil.

It has been two decades since we have been carrying on in San Diego with this tradition for Czech and Slovak children that always bring several American friends to share this special afternoon! And its one of my favorite

events! You see beautifully dressed children and their parents, everyone is happy and in good mood, everyone is in a state of beautiful anticipation! We bring traditional goodies on our festive table and we make the best mulled wine in town! The Hall where we held the celebration is as cozy as it can be, Christmassy and all!

We welcome the children, we make some arts and crafts and then the performance start! The children are crowded on the floor right below the stage and here we go caroling together with live instrumental accompaniment. Then a short puppet show ease children into the festivities that continue with a children Czech school group Slunicko performing a story of Christmas.

Then there is more caroling and a dramatized fairly tale Hansel and Gretel, also performed by the children. To involve all of the children, we invite them on the stage and even though we can barely move how crowded the stage is, we dance together several traditional dances. It is so beautiful to see everyone concentrated on the beautiful cute moves!

And here it is after the intermission, the trio of St. Nicholas, angel and a good-hearted devil takes the stage. How impressive they are! Angel is surrounded by many packages that St. Nicholas brought for the children. Angel calls a name and the called child heads to the stage to perform. And what a concert it is! Each child takes a mike and bursts into a song, a poem or performs a piece on an instrument. Everyone in the audience is quiet, enjoying the beautiful show. And we see it all: confident performances, painful overcoming shyness, even some crying at the sight of the devil... but each child pushing bravely through the performance! A big smile of each child coming down the steps from the stage, clutching a package with sweets, is the biggest reward for all of us.

It may take some work to organize and coordinate it all, but I enjoy it very much! Because for children's inspiration, sweet smile and wide opened eyes full joy I would do anything. Not so long ago, I enjoyed to see my small children take stage for Mikuláš, and organizing it also for their benefit. Today, I equally enjoy to prepare it for our new youngsters, except now with the help of my own teenage children, the veterans of this event!

It was a beautiful afternoon, the cozy Hall was full of wonderful children and truly wonderful parents who take an extra care to make sure their children behave well, parents who nourish in their offsprings love for the "old country" with its language, traditions, and heritage. How special to be a part of all of this festive happening!

And now, so long, and Merry Christmas everyone! May the kindness that we find easier in this special season spills beyond "the most beautiful time of the year"!

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