There is no accurate description of Ježíšek. He has been depicted as a baby, toddler, and young lad. Some even consider him simply as an abstract figure. According to tradition, Ježíšek makes his appearance on Christmas Eve. After families have the traditional Czech dinner of carp, potato salad, carp soup or pea soup family with children go to some room and watch the sky and look out for Ježíšek. Meanwhile, someone rings a bell. After that, children run to a room where there are already presents. In some families Ježíšek also sets up a Christmas tree. In others, parents buy a tree and the whole family decorates it. Young children open their gifts on 24 December.
History and Cultural Significance
The tradition of Ježíšek has been observed by the Czechs for more than 400 years. This is partly due to the large population of Catholics during that period. It was Martin Luther who coined the term during the 16th century, an attempt to provide a suitable name to their figure other than St. Nicholas.
In 1989, after the Velvet Revolution that overthrew the communist regime, local entrepreneurs began introducing Santa Claus to the country. He appeared in shop windows and town gatherings. Czech children were surprised to learn that their toys were given to them by an old man instead of the figure they grew up with. Despite the growing presence of Santa Claus, Ježíšek continues to be a popular tradition.
In December 1996, 80 Santa Clauses held a rally at the heart of traditional Prague in another attempt to make the Western figure popular with the children. It had moderate success, which eventually paved the way for Zachraňte Ježíška’s petition to actively protect local Christmas traditions.
At present, belief in Ježíšek is upheld in modern Czech society, despite having the lowest rates of religious affiliation in the world.
- Christkind, the same tradition in German-speaking countries
- Prague.Net. “Czech Santa.”. Retrieved on August 21, 2013.
- Rocks, David. Chicago Tribune News. “Czech Kids Find Santa Claus A Bit Confusing.” Retrieved on August 21, 2013.
- Embassy of the United States: Prague/Czech Republic. Retrieved on August 21, 2013.
- Scott, Thomas. Prague Post. “Local Holiday Forces is Tested by Global Forces.” Retrieved on August 21, 2013.