The period of Advent coincides with the commemorative
days of a number of saints, which also include a number of other
popular customs and superstitions. These customs in all likelihood have their
connections to certain Christian beliefs, but many of them still harken back
to the beliefs of pagan mythology. Not all of these customs were
observed everywhere, of course, and each of them had a number of regional
The first Advent holiday falls on the 30th of November,
Saint Andrew's Day. This day - dedicated to one of the twelve apostles -
used to be a day for fortune-telling, though today this has become more of
a Christmas Eve activity.
One example of this fortune telling was the practice
where girls in Silesia would melt lead to read their futures. They would melt
it in spoons over a candle,
and then quickly pour it into cold water through a key whose
teeth formed the shape of a cross. From the form into which
the lead hardened they would make predictions on what their
next husband would look like: slim, fat, handsome, ugly, hunch-backed,
etc. In the shape the lead took, the girls would also
look for signs of the various crafts in order to predict the profession of
their future bridegroom. Elsewhere, girls would look for the
appearance of their future husband in a hole cut in the ice,
where shadows revealed his character to them. In still other places,
girls would tap on the door of the henhouse, and if a rooster
crowed, the girl would be married in the next year. If a hen
answered, she would have another year to wait.
The next Advent holiday celebrated was the 4th of December,
Saint Barbara's Day. St. Barbara was a martyr from the
ancient period of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.
Barbara was the first of the "parading figures" of the season.
The disguises people wore, in
which they wandered around rural villages during the evening, really
only resembled St. Barbara in name. They were made up of a
woman's mask with a white cloak and long, flowing hair, with
green wreaths on her head and whisks for punishing children,
but also hand-baskets with fruit and nuts for presents. In
some regions, Barbara became Bruna, Perchta or Klibna, and in
others, people accompanied her disguised as goats, mares or
devils. To this day, people cut off cherry twigs on St.
Barbara's Day and put them in vases, where they bloom around
Christmas Eve, thus signifying luck and hope in the search for
a partner for life.
The most popular of the Advent holidays was - and still is - the
day of Saint Nicholas (Mikulas),
the 6th of December, though it is actually celebrated the evening before.
St. Nicholas is actually the only one of the "parading
figures" remaining today. Mikulas is primarily a children's holiday,
because he delivers presents and also reminds people that the coming of the
awaited Baby Jesus is near.
The final Advent holiday is the 13th of December - the day of
Saint Lucille, after which began the preparations for the Christmas
holidays. Today this day no longer has any meaning, but in the
past it was very important. St. Lucille protected against
witchcraft and sorcery. The variety of the popular customs in
the Czech Lands is well demonstrated by the different
"parading figures" with Lucille's name. In some places,
Lucille appeared as a mysterious, secretive being, with a
white mask, embodying fear and horror. In some places, she
also had a long nose or a knife with which she frightened
children, threatening to cut open their bellies.
tap on the window like St. Barbara, but appeared unexpectedly.
In different towns Lucille evolved into a more pleasant form,
roaming the village disguised as an old, hunch-backed woman
with her face concealed by a mask carrying a wooden spoon, teasing
the young people.