Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ježíšek brings gifts in the Czech Republic.

      Ježíšek (the Child Jesus) is a Christmas gift-giving figure used in the Czech Republic. Similar gift-giving figures also appear in other countries such as Slovakia (Ježiško) or Hungary (Jézuska).
      Much like Santa Claus, Ježíšek gives gifts to good people - that is, Czech people send gifts to their relatives and friends and say that the gifts are from Ježíšek. The gifts are unwrapped in the family circle on the evening of Christmas Eve. Traditionally, Ježíšek is imaged as a small child - concrete appearance left to each one's imagination. In present time, especially in business advertisements, images of Santa Claus are easier to use, but face quite an opposition from public. In overwhelming majority of Czech families, it is still Ježíšek who brings all the gifts - and the Christmas magic, too.
      Ježíšek comes after the Christmas Eve dinner. This usually consists of fish soup or pea soup with fried bread pieces and fried carp with potato salad. The meal named Kuba is also popular. Before or during dinner parents sneak away to put presents under the christmas tree, then after dinner Ježíšek (one of adults again) rings one of the bells on the tree to announce that gifts are there and children rush in.
      Since the 19th century, the Christmas tree is set up on the morning of Christmas Eve and taken down on Epiphany (January 6). Decorations are usually glass blown ornaments, garlands, and candles, lit right when Ježíšek puts presents under the tree.
      The Czech tradition of Ježíšek delivering presents on Christmas is perfectly distinctive of that of Saint Nicholas who brings his presents (in the form of goodies and sweets - or coal and potatoes) on his own day December 6. He is accompanied by an angel and a devil (who is supposed to scare little children by telling them, he will take them to hell if they were naughty).

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