St. Nicholas gives presents to Czech children

STORY: Dressed in red and white robes, with a tall mitre on his head and a thick, gilded staff in his hand, Czech children know him as "Mikulas." They also know that he takes his job much more seriously than his plump, jolly Western counterpart, Santa Claus.

Costumed trios playing Mikulas, an angel and a devil go from house to house to reward well-behaved children with sweets and less angelic ones with a lump of coal or a potato.

Children can appease St Nicholas with a poem or a song in the hope that he won't tell stories about their bad behaviour. But it's his friend, the devil who scares them the most, having been known to stick his tongue out, roll his eyes, rattle his heavy chain and even lunge at the worst offenders.

Traditionally "Mikulas" gives tangerines, nuts and chocolates, as well as socks and mittens to the children.