Like most nations, Hungary has its own Santa Claus who makes traditional rounds across the country in a horse drawn sleigh. He is said to be accompanied by two helpers, a good angel who distributes presents to good children, and Krampus, a wicked goblin who punishes bad and naughty children. He is very similar to the Western Santa, except that he wears the red robes of a bishop, a red miter on his head and carries a staff in one hand, instead of a regular Santa Claus costume. On 5th December evening, children hang boots on the window, like a stocking hung by fireplace on Christmas Eve and wait to see what presents they got from Mikulas. Often Mikulas leaves the boot stuffed with goodies like tangerines, candies, walnuts, dates, apples, chocolate of Mikulas figurines etc. Read the following section to know about Mikulas and Mikulas-day or St. Nicholas Day.
It is originally part of the Christian religion but the exact date when Mikulas-day tradition started in Hungary is not known. However, written documents reveal that the Saint Nicholas day celebration date goes way back to 18th century. In Hungary, Mikulas arrive only on Mikulas-day whereas on Christmas, Jezuska, the Christ Child is the actual gift-giver. Keeping with gifting tradition, the good children get all the goodies like small toys and books while, the bad or the naughty children get the boot with a devil-figure attached, which is actually figure of a Krampus. Since, no child is completely bad or totally good, most children end up getting both the devil-figure and the treat. In Hungary, on this eve you can see three figures walking by the streets representing Mikulas Nap, Szent Mikulas and krampusz stopping children and asking them if they were good or naughty in the past year. Most children say yes and try to impress "Santa" by reciting a short poem then they get rewarded with sweets candy or chocolates.
According to Hungarian customs, it is believed that St. Mikulas, on every 6th December, knocks on every window and asks children whether they have been good or bad past year, and rewards them according to their behavior. The good children get presents and the bad ones are given virgacs (birch sticks). But now, on 6th December at Mikulas parties, children enjoy singing Mikulas songs. Usually, a Mikulas figure in the party calls every child and reads from the "Greek Book". The children are praised for being good in the past year and are also reminded of the not-so-good instances of the same year.
The Mikulas day tradition is based on the story of a bishop having roots in Asia Minor who lived in the 4th century. Mikulas is said to have performed many miracles and has won the hearts of many people, especially children.