PRAGUE - Saint Nicholas day took on some new twists for celebrating Czechs on Saturday, from drive-through visits to kitting his accompanying angels and devils out in gloves and masks so that they could hand out treats. The Czech version of the holiday includes Saint Nicholas visiting with an angel and devil to reward well-behaved children with sweets and less angelic ones with a lump of coal or a potato. But rules limiting social contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant the usual custom of costumed trios roaming Czech neighbourhoods to greet children was given a make-over. At one outdoor site on the top level of a shopping mall parking lot, horned devils danced around a car to scare the children inside before an angel swept with a bag of sweets. "We just drove into a fairytale world and everything came alive," said Lucie Cigankova, who brought her daughter Anicka. "Experiences like this are great during the coronavirus." The Czech government advised families to scale back or even forego the holiday as social distancing rules require masks to be worn inside and no large gatherings outdoors. "I would recommend omitting Nicholas this year," Czech Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havliceck told iDNES.cz. After curbing one of Europe's fastest spreads of coronavirus, and despite fears the re-opening could lead to a surge of infections, Czechs cooped up for weeks headed eagerly out to shops, hairdressers, restaurants and pubs allowed to open with capacity requirements this week. Daily infections still hover in the thousands, while the death rate in recent weeks ranks among the highest in Europe and has jumped to 8,738 in the last two months. REUTERS
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