There are a lot of folk traditions around Christmas in Hungary. Some of them originate from the pre-Christian years, before 1000.
HUNGARIAN CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS ARE MIXTURE OF EASTERN EUROPEAN TRADITIONS WESTERN EUROPEAN TRADITIONS. PAGAN TRADITIONS
The holiday season starts with Advent. This time of year is the preparation for Christmas. constitute this period. Most children get Advent calendars with a small gift or candies for every day before Christmas.
Hungarians prepare advent wreath, which is decorated with four candles. These are lit one after the other on the four festive Sundays. Can dles are decorated with red and gold ribbons which symbolize life and brightness. Advent wreaths can be seen in stores, schools, offices, and in almost every home.
The Hungarian Santa is called Mikulás, (Me-ku-lash) He visits children on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day, the name day of "Miklós. Chidren put boots in the windows, like stockings hang by the fireplace on Christmas Eve in many different countries.
If the child has been good, Mikulás leaves the boot filled with goodies - traditionally with candies, tangerines, walnuts, apples, dates and chocolate Mikulás figurines. Also, most children get small toys and books.
If the child has been bad, the boot will contain just a switch usually with a devil-figure attached, indicating a beating is in order. As no child is all good or all bad, most get the switch and the treat..
Usually Mikulás-day is celebrated in schools and kindergartens. Children sing Mikulás-songs and when he comes in, the bravest children go to him, sit to his lap and tell a poem or sing a song. Then Mikulás calls them one by one, praising them for the good things they did and mentions bad things as well.
Usually Mikulás plays with them for a while or they watch a movie together. Mikulás often comes with one or two small evil boys, called "krampusz (kromm-puhs).
In Hungary one of the most popular beliefs is related to 13 December, the day of Lucy (Luca). At that day people start to make a chair from wood, which will be done on the day before Christmas. (There is also a saying for something that is terrible slow, that it is being made that slowly than Luca's chair). If someone steps on this chair in the church during the mass of Holy Night, he can see who is the witch in the crowd. DAY OF LUCA
The day of Luca is the day of "love predictions," too. In the evening girls used to cast lead in the backyard. The shape of the lead tells the occupations of their future love. This has been fairly common in the recent years.
THE LARGEST CHRISTMAS-TRADITION IS THE "BETLEHEM PLAY
It is a religious folk custom representing the story of the birth of Jesus, which is still a tradition in Hungary. Carrying the handmade Christmas crib and dressed up as shepherds the characters go from house to house, recounting the birth of Jesus by singing carols and performing plays.
Christmas trees can be seen during advent only in stores symbolizing holiday shopping. Hungarians decorate a tree on the Holy night.
Christmas is a private, family holiday in Hungary and most families decorate the tree together. Some families keep the older tradition that tree should be a surprise for chidren who even believe it was bought by angels. Children enter the room only when the small tree bells ring and music arises.
Gifts lay around the tree with small labels saying the name of someone in the family. Family - members sing Christmas songs together, then open their gifts and spend the night together.
Hungarians turn to people they love the most. Christmas is the holiday of love and heart. In Hungary, Christmas is a 2-day holiday. Big families meet, often travelling to another town, very close friends visit each other.
Christmas dinner is an important part of the celebration. In the old villages kichen table was always the center of the houses, which was covered and decorated only for holidays. The Christmas table-cloth had a magic meaning of power: health they had ga and abundance. As first course Hungarians have garlic and walnut kernel dipped in honey.
Main dishes are: STAFFED CABBADGE and brioche with walnut and poppy-seed, which is called 'BEIGLI., APPLES AND GARLIC. Almost all Christmas food have magic meaning: poppy-seed and pear brought abundance, honey made life sweet, galic brought health, apple meant beauty and love.
Another common dish of today's Christmas-dinner is FRIED FISH, a tradition mostly in towns. The scale of fish means money, wealth.
Ginger-bread has been an important part of Christmas baking usually made weeks before the holiday. Gingerbread figuriness are used to decorate house or the tree.