Hungary – A European Christmas Story

In Hungary, Christmas Eve is very important and is called ‘Szent-este’ which means Holy Evening. People spend the evening with their family and decorate the Christmas Tree. Sometimes only the adults decorate the tree (without the children there), so when children come in and see the tree, it’s a great surprise and they are told that angels brought the tree for them!

Christmas markets are a highlight of the holiday season in Budapest – and the most celebrated is at Vörösmarty Square. Named one of the best Christmas markets in Europe by Conde Nast Traveler, this world-renowned holiday market features over 100 wooden stalls selling traditional Hungarian handicrafts. Folk music and the scent of mulled wine fill the air, while open kitchens serve holiday comfort food like nokedli dumplings, lángos and chimney cakes. It’s no surprise that the Vörösmarty Square Christmas Fair, attracts thousands of visitors every holiday season.

Much like North American caroling, regölés or “singing good wishes” is a Hungarian holiday tradition. From December 26th until New Year’s Day, singers called ‘regősök’ travel from house to house singing songs of good wishes to their neighbors. Historically, this was “a custom of singing about the magic of nature, greetings, wishing for abundance, drawing couples together and collecting donations.” These Hungarian carols can still be heard throughout the holiday season.

The Midnight Mass service is very popular in Hungary. Most people go to Church after their Christmas meal.

On Christmas Eve children also hope that they will be left some presents under the Christmas Tree. They’re told that the presents are brought by Jesus, he’s often called “Jézuska”, a nickname or cuter version for “Jézus”. Children wait outside the room where the tree is and when they hear bells ringing, they can enter and the presents await them under the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Day people visit their families.

St. Nicholas also visits Hungary on the 6th December. In Hungary he is known as ‘Mikulás’. Children leave out shoes or boots on a windowsill- to be filled with goodies! Presents might also be brought by Télapó (Old Man Winter).

In Hungarian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Boldog karácsonyt’ (Happy Christmas) or ‘Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket’ (pleasant Christmas holidays).

A personal story:

By Melinda Stefanovics

I am from Hungary and I completed my high school there. Then I was studying to become a hairdresser . When I was eighteen years old I moved to England with my family- for a better future. I started studying English, then I did some courses like interpreting and sewing. I worked in care homes, factories and offices.

Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?

Traditional Christmas dinner is fisherman’s soup; stuffed cabbage, turkey, broth etc. Then we have lots of cakes and sweets like poppy seed roll, Gerbaud cake, coconut ball. There are many more dishes and different menus, in Hungarian houses.

Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?

Memories off Christmas it’s about the family together dressing the Christmas tree Altogether on the 24th evening mum cooking baking all day and when everything done The family sit down eat together and at midnight everyone from the community goes to Church to remembering Jesus on his birthday

Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family?

Presents can be anything from chocolates to clothes to pictures and money. Whatever the next person give, we will take it, because a gift is a gift and it comes with love!

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