Today is a special day for all the kids and many adults in Slovakia, Czech republic and many other countries. Mikuláš is a Slovak/Czech name for the Greek saint Nikolaos of Myra – who is believed to bring sweets to children during the night from 5th to 6th December. Even American Santa Claus is based on this historical figure, although he brings presents at Christmas (in my country we say that the Christmas presents are brought by little Jesus).
According to Wikipedia, there are many versions (some quite rough, not really for kids) of the legend which resulted in this custom. The one told to me when I was a kid is this one:
There were three daughters in a very poor family. Because they were poor, the daughters could not marry. Every night the daughters cleaned their shoes and put them into a window. One night, as bishop Mikuláš passed their window and filled the shoes with money. The girls found out about this when they woke up, on the morning of the 6th December. Therefore the girls did have enough money to get married and they were happy.
So nowadays every kid should put their shoe into the window on the evening of 5th December and as Mikuláš will go around, he will fill it with sweets (usually he knows well which ones you like and even though he does not fly, does not come in though a chimney and does not have a reindeer, he will usually get to you, even if you live in a high floor of a block of flats).
Mikuláš is pictured dressed as a bishop with tall cap. Santa dressed in red and white is often getting into his place but I personally prefer to buy chocolates that look properly bishop-like.
He comes to people with two helpers : "anjel" (angel- the good one, usually pictured with wings and in a light dress, mostly with long light hair) and "čert" (the opposite of angel, he lives in Hell, has horns and tail, sometimes also hoofs and sometimes is pictured with long tongue), who is supposed to give coal to the bad kids. When I was a kid, we used to go to my Grandfather’s work and when Mikuláš came, we had to say a short rhyme, sing or play something to him and we were rewarded by a bag of candies, chocolates and nuts. “Čert” was spitting fire and everyone was scared of him, some even cried (even though we knew exactly which Grandpa's colleague it was).
Here in Prague, you can even order Mikuláš to come to your home, he puts many leaflets on bus stops and similar places.
This year, thanks to me, Mikuláš will come to England too (I gave him my boyfriends address). However, can you please give him my new address too?? He is probably lost, because I move so often now, so he always leaves my sweets at my parents place.