Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Kellemes Karacsunji Unnepeket" (Abundant Christmas Holidays), "Boldog Karacsonj" (Merry Christmas)
Location: Central Europe
Tree Type: Traditional
- Gilded nuts
- Paper cornucopia filled with homemade fudge (Szalon Cukor)
- Foil wrapped fudge
- Embroidered felt hearts
- Honey cookies (Mezeskalacs)
The holiday season starts with Advent. Advent wreaths can be seen in stores, schools, offices, and in almost every home. This time of year is the preparation for Christmas. Candles are decorated with red and gold ribbons symbolizing life and brightness. Most children get Advent calendars with a small gift or candy for every day before Christmas. Lights and decoration, however, stay inside the houses, which are not decorated as they are in the US.
The Hungarian Santa, called Mekulash, (Me-ku-lash) visits children on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day, which is the name day of "Mekulash." Children put boots in the windows. If the child has been good, Mekulash leaves the boot filled with goodies traditionally with candies, tangerines, walnuts, apples, dates, chocolate wrapped in red paper and chocolate Mekulash figurines. Children sing Mekulash songs and when he comes in bravest children go to him, sit to his lap and tell a poem or sing a song. Most children get small toys and books. Mekulash often comes with one or two small evil helpers (krampusz (kromm-puhs). 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. Since no child is all good or all bad, most get the switch and the treat.
The Hungarian Christmas celebration begins on Christmas Eve. Most shops and public transportation close down at noon. The tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, never before, and the presents are placed under it. Most families decorate the tree together, but some families keep the older tradition that the tree should be a surprise for children, who even believe it was bought by angels. After dinner the tree is lit and the gifts are exchanged. Children enter the room only when the small tree bells ring and music arises. The family assembles around the tree and a short prayer is said. Then the gifts are passed out.