Backyard Makes a Beautiful Set for a Magical Tradition! Long Lost December Post! :) :) :)
And this story will take you to the whirl of a colorful celebration of St. Nicholas! 💫 it has been 700 years since he has started visiting children in Europe with the message of kindness and a small package of sweets. It is also he, who gave birth to the American kind-hearted Coca-Cola-colors-clad Santa Claus!♥️ Who was St. Nicholas aka Mikuláš, that saint of generosity, goodwill and kindness?
St. Nicholas lived in the fourth century in Myra, today Turkey, then a Greek colony in the Roman Empire. He was taught by his well respected parents, who died young, to always fight for justice and give to the needed. As he lived prior to the legalization of Christianity, he, as a Christian, was harshly persecuted. Becoming a notable scholar, his brilliance was honored by the invitation to the Council in Nicea that laid out the foundation of Christianity in AD 325, twelve years after Christianity became a legal religion by Constantine. Then his passionate teaching and good deeds filled his meaningful life.
Many stories of his endless empathy and kindness surround St. Nicholas. The following legend sticks out in its consequence.
One day St. Nicholas dropped through a chimney three big pieces of gold that found their way to three stockings being dried on a fireplace mantle. The stockings belonged to three poor but hardworking young sisters. St. Nicholas heard them crying the day before, and he knew why: If they have no dowry, they will end up being sold as slaves. And he saved them! That stockings by the fire and the morning surprise in them sounds awfully familiar!🌺
This very legend started a wonderful tradition in the1300's.
That symbolic St. Nicholas, angel and devil (each symbolizing a streak within us) started visiting children on December 5, a day before St. Nicholas died, so he can share with them the importance of kindness and goodwill. If you are a parent in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, you will hire the trio for a small amount to visit your house! All of us, children, awaited him in our nice clothes and ready to recite a poem or to sing a song for him. And we were a bit worried as it is said that St. Nicholas sees it all, so it was also a great (and still is) tool for parents to keep the children in line, because, beware! St. Nick sees it all!!
And how important and beloved he is in my country! You will find 124 churches in the Czech Republic alone built in his name; that includes two breathtaking and most visited Baroque
churches in Prague — Sv. Mikuláš at Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and Sv. Mikuláš at the Old Time Square (Staroměstké náměstí). Several Czech villages are also named Svatý Mikuláš (St. Nicholas), the oldest from the year 1308. St. Nicholas is a patron of Greece and Russia, and a patron of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, and students!
His fame spilled over the ocean as he is also a patron of New York!🗽
And how did that come about? Dutch people brought the tradition in 17. century to New Amsterdam, today‘s New York!
St. Nicholas is called Sint Nikolaas or Sinterklaas in Dutch who celebrated him, and later Anglicized his name, so from Sinterklass became Santa Claus. The tradition was first described in an article in 1773 in the New York newspaper. Washington Irving describes in 1809 how the Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus in The History of New York, also worth reading! But the most famous piece of literature describing Santa Claus comes from the 1823 Christmas poem A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore. You will be pleased to find out that you know it!
Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!
And that is enough history, I know!
Here comes a story how we celebrated this old tradition this past December in San Diego. It is our twenty second annual!!!
”Children! Let us call out "Mikulaash" so he knows we are ready for him!"
And the festively dressed and excited children call out in earnest St. Nicholas by his Slavic name: "MIKULAASHI, MIKULAASHI"
I put theatrically hands by my ear, I tilt my head and say — "I hear nothing, we must call louder!" And the children call louder and an old fashioned land-line phone suddenly loudly rings. Wow! What is it? The children fall quiet and look around startled and puzzled. One of the fathers picks up the impressive phone and says: "Oh, Mr. Mikulaash, yes, yes, you have the right number, we are waiting for you, yes, the children are behaving wonderfully and cannot wait to see you! ok, in an hour then!"
The Czech, Slovak and American children are looking at me with wide happy eyes, and follow perfectly my directions as I start playing with them: first they repeat a clapping rhythmic patterns after me, I teach them Czech words to "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" and as I make up the words funny the children are looking at each other giggling; then we play "loud to quiet and quiet to loud" with their voices, and they love this game as they are encouraged at one point to be really loud!
Then I suddenly put my hands together which means dead quiet and they do it perfectly, but laugh so hard when someone peeps into the quiet! Singing Czech and Slovak songs follows! Each child takes an instrument from a basket and our band with tambourines, triangles, small drums and maracas is accompanied by a guitar and accordion and here we go, blasting one carol after the other. And then? We dance! We get up and all of the three dozen (!!) children make two circles and start dancing: Children twirl, mimic the shown steps and sing along...
And I am in heaven to be right here with these children, to continue that long European tradition of St. Nicholas Day in San Diego!
This year we had it for the first time in our backyard, as it was the best setting for the infamous C-times. And I was nervous! Will we fit? Will the ambiance be nice? Will people come knowing it is not in our usual public cozy theater? And boy, it was one of our best celebration we had!!
All together 36 children showed up with their parents in the Christmassy decorated backyard, a result of a magic hand of parents of my Czech school.
The lower level of the yard had an arts and craft station. Several steps take us to the "main terrace" where wafts of mulled wine and spiced apple cider hang sweetly in the air, carols are softly playing from a speaker above tables full of raffle baskets and homemade Czech and Slovak cookies, the rows of white neatly arranged chairs are ready for our guests, decorated Christmas tree stands on the edge of a wooden platform, our stage, a piano is waiting for little hands, and thousands of lights and ornaments set the mood! Even a makeshift gymnastic floor is here where one of our children, talented Karolinka Alliamus, will soon astonish us with her beautifully prepared gymnastic dance!
And what now? Children from my Czech school Sluníčko perform a short dramatized story about how Little Jesus was born as it is he who brings to the Czech and Slovaks presents on 24th of December - and finally! St Nicholas is coming!!
He enters along with a fury devil who swings over his shoulder a burlap bag for naughty children (!) while rattling his chain, the sweet angel is gingerly walking right behind. WOW AND WOW! The children sit down, St. Nicholas greets them, asks if they behaved well since his last visit. Then the angel starts handing St. Nicholas packages from a huge basket, each bag with a name tag: the name is read, the very child is called to the stage and each has a short talk with St. Nicholas. Then the child performs! A poem, a song, a dance or music on a piano! The talent of the children is wide and tall, and most speak teh language of their parents.
Each child is rewarded with a bag of sweets, dried fruits, nuts — and, if the child was naughty, a piece of coal or a potato will be included in the bag! And believe me, children take this gentle message seriously and you hear them running to their parents promising they will always be good if that potato was found!🌺
After the last package is given away, everyone happily opens the presents, parents sip beer or hot wine, raffle is raffled, children are running around, and everyone seems happy and touched by the magic of that most beautiful time of the year.
And that is a sight that St, Nicholas like to behold: peace and joy among people, passtime filled with songs, camaraderie and dances.
It seems like yesterday when my children were little and wide-eyed, playing a saxophone for St.Nicholas.
Today they are long grown up, 19 and 22 this year, and now they help prepare that magic they experienced for their little friends. Adelka was the angel, Luky that agile devil, unrecognizable by the children who know them! And to have them around makes this event as meaningful for me and my wonderful husband Vláďa, as when they were little.
Peace on Earth and may kindness and goodwill rule the world the whole year!