Hungary_Christmas traditions

Santa Claus

6th December

Santa Claus comes to Hungarian children on 6th in the morning. Basically he looks like your Santa Claus in America. He comes from the North Pole on his sledge dragged by reindeers. There are always 2 little devils (dressed in black with red horns and tail) with him to punish bad children. On 5th in the evening little children clean their boots and put them on the window for the night as Santa Claus in Hungary puts his presents into boots. Children can hardly sleep that night and always wake up early in the morning. But bad children get not only presents but also birch (a bunch of branches painted gold to swish them with if they were bad - children are so afraid of getting it!). Of course on 6th you can meet many Santa Clauses in the streets, in the stores - and also in the schools. If children (but also teachers in the schools!) sing him a song or recite a poem about Santa Claus they can get some chocolate.
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The holiday season starts with Advent in Hungary, too. 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 candie for every day before Christmas.
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Luca's Chair

13th December

On Luca Day the process of making the Luca Chair was started. It looked more like a step stool, had no arms or backrest, and was one of the principal tools used in witch-spotting. The stool had to be made of nine different kinds of wood, and had to have just a bit of work done to it from December 13 right up to Christmas. This gave birth to a Hungarian lament when things don't progress very fast: "Készül, mint a Luca széke " (it is getting done [slowly] like Luca's chair).

On Christmas Eve, standing on the Luca Chair during Midnight Mass you can pick out the witches in the crowd because they wear horns for this occasion. Immediately after though, one must run home and throw the chair into the fire because any owner of a Luca Chair will be torn apart by the witches.
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The largest Christmas-tradition is the "Betlehem play," which has a great written literature as well. Some days before Christmas groups of boys go house-to-house with a model of the holy family. They perform a short play about the child Jesus with songs and poems usually in costums.
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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.
The main Christmas meal, which is also eaten on Christmas eve, consists of fish and cabbage and a special kind of poppy bread/cake called 'Beigli'.
The Midnight Mass service is very popular in Hungary. Most people go to Church after their Christmas meal.
On Christmas Day people visit their close family.

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Traditional Hungarian Christmas Food

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