The Feast of St. Nicholas in Prague:
A Pleasant and Cheap Alternative to New Year's
Let it be known: Prague and the Czech Republic in general are magical places to visit in December, during the Christmas holidays. Few places in Europe can compete with the magic and the still- living traditions brought to bear at this time of year. For my part, if there's a time I like most of all, it's the Feast of St. Nicholas, and that's also what I recommend to friends who want to spend a weekend in Prague: that they come for St. Nicholas rather than for New Year's. Like New Year's, it is an enchanted time to be in the city, but the Feast also coincides with a lot more attractive Prague apartment rental prices: at least two good reasons to come enjoy yourself before Christmas.
As December 6th to every Czech since youngest childhood appearing in the streets of the Czech capital. Starting on the 5th of December, the eve of St. Nicholas, the angel, the devil and the kindly patron saint of children go their way through the city, rewarding or reprimanding, depending! Candy for the children who have been good, and coal and potatoes for the others! There's no better time for lovers of magical end-of-year festivities to come spend a weekend in Prague. In addition, this year, the 6th of December falls on a Saturday!
Here, the Feast of St. Nicholas has lost none of its vibrancy, and it's a time of joy and sharing in every family. I remember the seriousness and gravity of the little Czechs face-to-face with St. Nicholas, being asked if they'd been good this year. One does not jest with St. Nicholas, so much so that parents and families brim with ingenuity about making the Feast even more truthful.
Therefore, lots of stores rent or sell costumes, like www.karneval-ptakoviny.cz, which even has two locations in the city centre (Křížovnická 8 and number 64 Wenceslas Square), and like the www.kostymy-ladana.cz costume rental store (Opatovická 22). Once there, all that's left to do is to choose whether you prefer to be the gentle Saint Nicholas, the soft-eyed angel or the terrifying devil. Then, off you go: you can wander around to your heart's content in the labyrinthine streets of Prague, around Old Town Square, near the Powder Gate, down by the Charles Bridge--in short, it's the perfect time to come experience, for one weekend in Prague, the Feast of St. Nicholas in an exceptional setting!
This is actually what I often say to my friends who are eager to discover the Czech capital in winter: New Year's in Prague is good, but the Feast of St. Nicholas is better! Less crowds, less hubbub, a gentler atmosphere, without having to worry about startling at every firecracker or at every bottle shattering on the ground... Renting an apartment in Prague, getting restaurant reservations, or even turning up at a restaurant without reservations, or buying tickets at the last minute: everything is simpler and more pleasant.
For those short on good ideas for gifts, the numerous Christmas markets all over town are an ideal Ali Baba's cave for doing some shopping and finding original ideas. From of the 29th Old Town Square becomes covered in little wooden stalls where you can find traditional crafts in wood, straw, glass, ceramic, Christmas decorations and typical wooden toys, leather goods, jewelry and scented candles, all good plans for properly supplying the Christmas tree with gifts. Wenceslas Square, Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky) and Peace Square (Náměstí Míru) also host their own Christmas markets, as do other, smaller, area squares all over town.
Those who appreciate food will also find their fill because the Christmas markets are overflowing with little stands selling pastries (one called “trdelník,” a small, cylindrical puff pastry bathed in sugar and cinnamon is THE absolute most must-taste pastry of them all!), pork products, and roasted chestnuts, as well as Czech beer, hot mulled wine and other delicacies. To be consumed while admiring the immense Christmas tree that towers over Old Town Square every year, glittering in the darkness with a thousand lights.
At this time of year, and up until the Christmas celebrations, it is not unusual to come across choirs in the streets. In the Czech Republic, singing is still part of the living traditions! Numerous concerts held in small churches also contribute to the magic of these days of Advent. At the National Theatre of Prague, it's the perfect time to see, or see again, the very lovely Nutcracker Suite ballet, which takes place on the 6th the 7th , there is an Advent concert planned at 1pm, and the Leoš Janáček opera “The Cunning Little Vixen” begins at 7pm.
Renting an apartment in Prague over the Feast of St. Nicholas is much better value than doing so for New Year's Eve. For example, a KLARA apartment for four nights from the 4th December comes to barely €10 per night per person, if you turn up in a group of seven, that is, €285 compared to €1599 for the same apartment if you wish to have it over New Year's in Prague. It's also the right time to buy plane tickets with Transavia, which sells tickets for barely €100 from Paris from the 3rd.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is definitely the ideal celebration to come experience in order to combine discovery, shopping, culture and an enjoyable change of scene. to the 7th of December.