Slovenia celebrates St Nicholas
Ljubljana, 5 December - Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, is being celebrated around the country tonight in line with a tradition that dates back at least to the early 19th century. One of the most popular among the saints is visiting children, rewarding those who have been good with what are usually smaller gifts.
St Nicholas festivities are traditionally organised in bigger cities, villages and especially parishes on the eve of his name day, 6 December, and include fairs and processions featuring what some believe to be the precursor of Santa Claus.
Traditionally, St Nicholas brought simple gifts to well-behaved children, such as fruit and carobs, while the poorly behaved kids each got a hazel rod.
If the St Nicholas procession did not make it to one's home, parents usually stuck the presents in children's shoes, under the condition that they polished them beforehand.
While most children look forward to St Nicholas, called Miklavž in Slovenia, some fear his helpers, which include devil-like creatures called Parklji, who carry big chains and scold children who have been bad.
The tradition stems from the pagan times, when people believed that souls of the dead returned to Earth in the winter time.
Parklji are controlled by St. Nicholas, but he does not stop them from giving poorly behaved children and youths a massive scare.