Ladeeez and Gentleman
I give to you, the Czech Christmas... In fifteen minutes or less. Thanks to bookwormom for reminding me about this one.
Yes, Virginia, here in the wilds of Bohemia (and Moravia come to think of it) there is no Santa Claus. Instead, the traditional Czech bringer of gifts is Ježíšek, which roughly translates as "Baby Jesus". He arrives on Christmas Eve and drops off presents on a table in one room, while the children all wait patiently in the other. As he leaves, he rings a little bell which is the signal for Czech kiddies to burst the eardrums of any on-lookers with shrieks of delight, stampede into the room and proceed to clout one another around the head with their new gifts.
During the communist period, Ježíšek managed to survive the Russian invasion of "Grandfather Frost", who tried to boot Christmas into the stratosphere and replace it with a more secular timetable for present-giving at New Year. There's an iron-(curtain)y buried in there under the discarded wrapping and (velvet) ribbons.
Although Ježíšek managed to stand firm in the face of Ded Moroz, now Santa Claus appears to be encroaching on Ježíšek's territory in a big way. As a result, a casual group of professionals in the advertising game have set up an anti-Santa campaign, which has attracted some attention.
Happily, I can report that other aspects of the traditional Czech Christmas are alive and well, such as the eating of carp and potato salad for Christmas dinner. Well, at least the carp are very much alive and swimming around in their big plastic blue buckets behind the street-corner stalls, although I personally think that these carp don't have much going for them in the liveliness stakes. At least, not compared to say, sharks. These days, instead of being carried home live and dumped in the bathtub to keep them going until Christmas Eve (sharks would definitely add interest to this tradition), they are instead bashed on the head and filleted at point of sale.
Close enquiry of a bunch of Czech people has confirmed that the traditional Czech potato salad is not made from feral potatoes that have run wild in the Krkonoše mountains all year.
Gotta go - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, or as Mrs. Jana would make me say (several times while bashing a ruler on the desk), Hezké vánoce a šťastný nový rok 2007. Please don't tell her I just read the year as individual numerals.