Christmas is one of the most popular and widely celebrated festivals in Hungary. The holiday season in the country begins with the advent of Christmas and continues till the New Year. In Hungary, Christmas Eve is called 'Szent-este', meaning 'Holy evening'. On this day, people decorate the Christmas tree and spend the evening in the company of their family. It is believed that St. Nicholas visits Hungary on December 6. He comes from the North Pole, in a sledge dragged by reindeers. Read on to know more about Christmas celebrations and traditions in Hungary.
Christmas Celebrations In Hungary
Christmas is more of a private holiday in Hungary and people celebrate the day with their family, rather than attending parties, which is the common way of celebrating the festival all over the world. Some families follow the old tradition and keep the decorated Christmas tree a surprise for children, who believe that it was brought by angels as narrated by the folk tales. The children are supposed to enter the room where the Christmas tree is kept, only after they hear the small tree bells rings. The children then find their gifts hanging from the Christmas tree, with small labels containing their name, to help them to identify their gifts. The family members sing Christmas carols and open their gifts.
There are a lot of folk traditions attached to Hungarian Christmas Celebrations. Some of these traditions have originated from the pre-Christian times, i.e. before 1000 BC, to be precise. However, in the last few decades, most of these traditions have disappeared. In small Hungarian villages, some of these folk traditions are still observed. The day of Luca is still celebrated, which is known as the day of 'love predictions'. Another Christmas tradition observed is the "Betlehem play". The play has a great script and is well appreciated all over Hungary. A few days before Christmas, groups of young boys, dressed in costumes, go door to door with an artificial model of Holy family. They enact a short play about Child Jesus and sing Christmas poems.
The Hungarian Santa, known as Mikulas, visits the children on December 6. The gifts that they receive are based on their conduct throughout the year. If a child has been good, the Santa leaves him/her boots full of goodies, traditionally with tangerines, walnuts, candies, apples, dates and chocolate Mikulas figurines. Mikulas is accompanied with two or three evil boys, known as "krampusz". It is believed that the evil boys punish those children who have misbehaved. It is also common in Hungary for little kids to write or draw a list of wishes, which they want the Santa to grant them. The list is to be put on their windows in the evening, so that the Santa can see them.