Like anywhere else in the Central European countries, Christmas in Hungary is celebrated on December 25. In Hungary, Merry Christmas is 'Boldog karácsonyt' or 'Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket' and it the time for everything good, happy and snuggly.
Hungary has its own version of Christmas. Which, if not very different from Christmas traditions from around the world, has a bit of Hungary written all over it. Let’s take a look at how Christmas is celebrated in Hungary.
1. Christmas Traditions in Hungary
They say that a few Christmas traditions in Hungary have originated in the pre-Christian era! A time of celebration, Hungarians love to spend this time with their close ones, touching upon the Christmas traditions that have been passed down generations. So, what makes Christmas so special in Hungary? Let’s find out. Here are some of the Hungarian holiday traditions to make your holiday season even more special.
- Advent Wreaths
Four weeks before Christmas, the first Advent wreath is made. These beautiful holiday centerpieces are made with four candles, each representing faith, hope, joy, and love that are neatly laid down on a bed of pine branches and decorated with ribbons. One candle is then lit every Sunday leading up to the Christmas Day.
- Luca Day
Marking Hungary’s annual Winter Solstice, the Luca Day is celebrated on December 13. Being the longest and the darkest night of the year, this day has been traditionally associated with witches, spirits, and everything evil. Folk traditions include the carving of the Luca Chair which is made using nine different types of wood. The only catch is that you have to carve only once per day and finish the chair by Christmas Eve.
- Love Spells
Christmas in Hungary is also the time for love spells. Unmarried women write twelve names on small scraps of paper and burn one a day until Christmas. The last one remaining is the future husband’s name. Esh!! Fingers crossed.
Similar to carol singing in North America, singers called ‘regsök’ travel across Hungary, from house to house, singing songs of good wishes from December 26 until New Year’s Day.
Mezeskalacs are the traditional gingerbread cookies. Unlike the traditional American ones, these cookies are meticulously decorated with floral patterns, cross-hatched laces, various animal designs, and Hungarian aphorisms.
2. Hungarian Christmas Meal and Drinks
The main Christmas meal in Hungary is eaten on Christmas Eve. Fish soup, stuffed cabbage, and bejgli can be found in most Hungarian homes during Christmas. People gather around the Christmas tree, light the candles, sing traditional Christmas carols, and look for their presents under the tree. Once that is done, it is time for the Christmas meal to begin.
The dinner tables are decorated with green fir twigs, Christmas ornaments, oranges, and red-cheeked apples. A former Hungarian church tradition required people to fast for Advent, and even today, many Hungarian families continue the tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve – this fish is often consumed in the form of halászlé (fish soup). Food items with poppy seeds like poppy seed rolls, noodles with poppy seeds, and poppy seed pudding also make for traditional Hungarian Christmas food items. On the first and second day of the Christmas, Hungarian people also eat karácsonyi pulykasült (Christmas turkey), gesztenyével töltött pulyka (turkey with chestnut stuffing) and töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage)
3. Hungarian Santa
Lovingly called Mikulás, (Me-ku-lash), the Hungarian Santa comes to visit children on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day. Children, traditionally, put boots in the windows. All the good kids get candies, tangerines, walnuts, apples, dates, and chocolates filled in their boots. Had the child been bad, they will find a devil-figure attached to the boot.
4. Christmas Markets in Hungary
There are many Christmas Markets that are set up around Hungary. While Budapest has many, like at Vörösmarty Square, Advent Feast at Basilica, Four Seasons Gresham, and Óbuda, Millenáris Park. Then the towns of Gyr, Eger, Szeged, Sárvár, and Pécs also has its own Christmas markets. These markets have a beautiful holiday vibe going around them and people gather here to enjoy what many believe is the ‘best time of the year’ These markets have stalls selling goodies, street artists, food stalls, and so much more.
Budapest has one of the best Christmas markets in Europe! Check out some more Christmas Markets in Europe!
*Few images for representation only