Today we have a Czech Christmas tale for you. Jak Pepík a Mikeš slavili Vánoce (How Pepík and Mikeš Celebrated Christmas). It is from the 1966 Josef Lada book entitled Mikeš. We hope you enjoy it.
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English Translation of this story…
Dear children, how Pepík always looked forward to the beautiful Christmas Eve! Although he didn’t receive any gifts from Baby Jesus, he had a Christmas tree every year. It was adorned with chains made of flour from colorful paper wrappers of chicory and a few pieces of cookies, and when the candles lit up, the red apples blushed like painted. Pepík couldn’t get enough of that beauty. Yet, he abandoned everything when he heard the shepherd on the lower square playing his trumpet. Children, that was pure beauty! It was already evening, in the cottages nestled in the snow, the lights were on, and somewhere in front of one stood a shepherd playing a beautiful melody into the Christmas Eve night. The children followed him the whole evening, from cottage to cottage, from farm to farm, until the bells called for the beautiful midnight mass.
Pepík teased Mikeš about that snowman until Christmas. But then he stopped because he had other worries. Old wheelwright Kudrna had told him on the square about a week before Christmas that Mikeš had ordered nice sleds for him. They would be long and so comfortable that three boys could sit on them.
“Pepík is surely preparing a gift from Baby Jesus for me!” thought Pepík, and he immediately worried about what to give Mikeš under the Christmas tree. What about Mikeš? As you already know, he had enough money in an old mug well-hidden in the attic. He received enough money from Prague tourists who walked around in the summer and were very surprised when Mikeš politely greeted them. But Mikeš was not stingy. He often gave Pepík a few pennies to buy paper and paints for painting. But Pepík had never received anything from Baby Jesus, so he was pleased that Mikeš remembered him.
Pepík thought for a long time about what to give Mikeš for Christmas and what to give to the other friends, Pašík and Bobeš. He had saved a few pennies, but with those, he wouldn’t buy much for all three friends. He couldn’t think of anything wise for a long time until he finally decided to make a scooter for all three of them at the wheelwright Kudrna’s. Mikeš would get it under the Christmas tree, Pašík would have it in his stable all day as a Christmas present the next day, and Bobeš would get it on the third day. They wouldn’t ride it for now because there’s snow everywhere, but they would have sleds for that, which Mikeš would give Pepík as a Christmas present. Pepík planned it well: “In winter, we’ll ride sleds; in summer, we’ll ride the scooter, and that way, we’ll have something to ride on the whole year!”
So he had the scooter made at Kudrna’s. But the few pennies he had saved weren’t enough to pay for the scooter, so he and wheelwright Kudrna made a deal: he would make the scooter, and Pepík would nicely paint his house for it. And he was done with the worries.
On Christmas Eve, Bobeš, the goat, came to visit Pašík. He was wearing an old servant’s cloak and a warm scarf around his neck not to be ashamed. Pašík was washing and brushing himself in the stable, and when Bobeš praised him for dressing up for the holidays, Pašík responded with an explanation:
“I’m doing it for Pepík too. He’s fasting all day today and is horrifiedly thin because of it. But he says he’ll see golden pigs running on the wall at night! So I’m dressing up to look like those golden pigs and to be likable to Pepík again tomorrow.”
And so, the long-awaited, beautiful Christmas Eve finally arrived! The lovely tree, fragrant with spruce and resin, was already on the table, firmly anchored in an old mortar to prevent it from tipping over. Colorful paper chains surrounded it, cookies wrapped in crinkled paper hung on the branches, and red virgin apples blushed amid the fresh greenery. At the top, the Bethlehem star, cut from golden paper, shone brightly. You can’t even imagine, dear children, the immense joy Pepík felt from this small, modestly decorated tree!
After a modest dinner consisting of black gingerbread sauce with plums, raisins, almonds, and “black cube,” which everyone surely knows (boiled barley with dried mushrooms), Grandma lit the candles on the tree. Just then, the servant began to play a Christmas carol on his trumpet at the first house. Pepík sent Mikeš to see which house the servant was playing at, and before Mikeš returned, a brand-new scooter lay under the tree. Pepík stared at it and asked Grandma if it was a gift from Jesus for him.
But grandma told him, “Jesus gave this to you, Mikeš because you’re so good and obedient. Pepík didn’t get anything!”
Mikeš smiled under his whiskers and said, “Thank you for the nice scooter!” And slyly looked at Pepík. Then he whispered in his ear, “Come see what Jesus gave you!”
Pepík was curious about where Mikeš was leading him and didn’t understand why he was being pulled into the snowy garden. But he understood it right away when Mikeš brought him to a small apple tree under which beautiful sleds were lying.
“That’s a gift from baby Jesus for you,” said Mikeš, “and I wish you to tear them apart in good health!” (Mikeš often heard this from Pepík’s dad when delivering new shoes to customers and wishing them to be torn apart in good health.)
Pepík thanked Mikeš warmly and immediately made an agreement with the apple tree that they would both borrow each other’s gifts to enjoy them in winter and summer.
Then Pepík asked Mikeš why he placed the sleds in the garden under the apple tree, and he replied somewhat hesitantly, “Well, I heard that gifts are placed under the Christmas tree, so I dragged the sleds here into the garden under the apple tree. I’ve never seen a Christmas tree; I didn’t know that gifts are placed under a tree brought from the forest!”
Pepík praised Mikeš for doing it well and pulled the sleds into the living room to show off Mikeš’s gift. Grandma affectionately scratched the good kitty behind the ears and told him he was the best kitty in all of Hrusice.
But they didn’t stay in the living room for long because Pepík was eager to try out the sleds. Pepík dressed warmly, Mikeš put on gloves, and they eagerly dragged the sleds out of the living room. Pepík wanted to show the sleds to Pašík, but the plump fellow was already snoring after a good dinner, oblivious to the world.
They pulled the sleds together to the hill near Sobrov’s farm. Pepík sat on them there, Mikeš squeezed in behind him, and zoom! They were off like a bullet around Sevce’s house, down the road to the stream. It was a beautiful, starry Christmas Eve. In the distance, somewhere at the other end of the village, the servant played the trumpet under the windows of snow-covered cottages. And for that, they brought gifts from each of those cottages, which Bobeš, the goat, graciously accepted from the donors and carefully stored in his harness. Oh, what a beautiful, holy night of Christmas!
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