Czechs launch war on Santa, ‘usurper’ of Christmas

Czechs have launched an ”anti-Santa” campaign against the white-bearded usurper they fear is edging out the infant Jesus or ”Jezisek”, the traditional bearer of seasonal gifts for centuries.

”I do not have any wish to see a fat man dragging a bag at Christmas. I want to retain my own vision of the infant Jesus,” said the founder of the campaign, Prague publicity agency manager, Petr Vlasak.

Together with about 20 colleagues, Vlasak launched the campaign aimed at drawing their citizen’s attention to the fact that time-honoured Christmas carols never evoked the belly-laughing old man dressed in a red robe and fur.

The campaigners have launched an internet site,, highlighting the worst examples of Santa Claus ”bad taste”, taken out an ad in a trade magazine and intend to offer an ”anti-prize” for the most absurd Santa publicity.

They have also distributed stickers displaying a crossed-out Santa Claus hat to shopkeepers who refuse to allow the ”imposter” across their thresholds.

”I would stress, there is nothing anti-American about this … We just want to say that our tradition is Jezisek, nothing more, nothing less,” assured Vlasak.

Though most in this country of 10-million cannot be described as practising believers, as in neighbouring Poland or Slovakia, the Christian heritage still holds fast in Czech Christmas customs.

Many Czechs, according to Vlasak, are unhappy at the proliferation of Father Christmas in publicity spots and in shop windows, or, even worse, his intrusion into Czech songs and tales. ”There have been surveys showing that Santa Claus rubs about 80% of Czechs up the wrong way,” he added.

The country in the past resisted another bearded seasonal invader from abroad, the originally-Soviet ”Dieda Mraz” (Grandfather Frost).

This intruder arrived after the communists seized power in the post-World War II period as most of Eastern European fell under Soviet influence. A Christmas speech by former president Antonin Zapotocky even paved the way for his arrival in 1952.

”Under capitalism, the infant Jesus reminded the poor that they belonged in the stables,” Zapotocky had said. ”But a revolution has taken place, the infant Jesus has grown up, he has grown a beard and become ‘Dieda Mraz’.”

Czech children at the time were surprised to learn that their dolls, electric trains and toy cars were not put under the Christmas tree by a small child born in a manger in Bethlehem but by an old man from the east.

The faithful Czechs continued to prefer ”Jezisek”, however, until the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that overthrew the communist regime but allowed Santa Claus to cross over into the newly opened frontiers.

Prague publicity agent David Konig initially had the idea of the ”anti-Santa” campaign.

”One day, my three-year-old daughter received for a Christmas present a picture book that portrayed an old man with a red robe as the infant Jesus,” he recalled indignantly.

”If we stand by and do nothing, this sort of thing will become commonplace within five years,” a fired-up Vlasak added. His only regret is that the campaign kicked off too late this year to have much effect in halting production of all the Christmas publicity spots that were already under way.

But the ”anti-Santa” movement has already vowed to mobilise more energetically next year to circumscribe Santa-type activity from traditional Czech domains.

”For a Coke advert it is okay, but not for a Czech drink,” he said. — AFP



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