Christmas in Hungary

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In Hungary Christmas starts on Christmas Eve when the tree goes up and the presents are wrapped throughout the day, during this time a lot of the children are sent out to play and when they return the living room door is locked till after dinner, they’re sent to the dining room where Christmas dinner is served, and later that night it is believed by the children Baby Jesus delivers the presents.

There are lots of soft lit candles and lights, calm music, family gatherings, gift opening, all in all it’s a very calm and family orientated night. In tradition a family will put a show for each other which is called ‘playing Bethlehem' , during the show they wear costumes and tell stories of the wise men, Mary and Joseph, and of course baby Jesus. Using models of a church and crib to help their performance. They go from house to house performing for people in return for gifts.

The Hungarian traditions are a mix of Christian traditions, pagan traditions, Eastern European traditions, and Western European traditions, with a lot coming from Germany including the advent wreaths and advent calendars for the children.

Advent wreaths have four candles around the edge and a candle is lit for each Sunday before Christmas. The advent calendar has 24 small windows behind which are pictures and scene, each day one is opened helping children countdown to Christmas.

St Nikolas day is December 6th, a day in which children leave freshly cleaned shoes by the door overnight and when they wake in the morning St Nickolas has left sweets and treats in the shoes of the good children and warnings in the shoes of the bad.

December 13th is St Luca’s day, which is an old tradition which originally consisted of men beginning the carving of a stool which he wished to visit just before Christmas. It was believed that if the created stood on the stool in a congregation he’d be able to tell which people were witches, although that plan usually backfired as the person that found a witch would then be chased by her, it was believed that if you dropped grains as you run it would stop her, so the stool carvers had to carry bags of grains with them.

Originally village boys would dress in costume would go throughout the village singing carols, although like the Luca stool this is not practiced much anymore. Nowadays nativities are instead performed.
Christmas these days is celebrated until December 27th, on this day people wish well and good fortune to local families, and wine blessed on this day is said to be very powerful.