Christmas is celebrated with two or three public holidays each year in Hungary. However, numerous traditions begin earlier with the Advent season.
|2018||24 Dec||Mon||Christmas Holiday|
|25 Dec||Tue||Christmas Day|
|26 Dec||Wed||2nd Day of Christmas|
|2019||25 Dec||Wed||Christmas Day|
|26 Dec||Thu||2nd Day of Christmas|
A month before Christmas Day, families light up a candle per week on their “Advent wreaths,” while children follow the countdown to 25 December on their “Advent calendars,” receiving small gifts each day as the day approaches.
Saint Nicholas Day comes on 6 December. This is when “Mikulas,” the Hungarian term for Saint Nicholas, leaves treats in boots or shoes that children have left out for him to fill. “Krampusz,” a devilish assistant, travels with Mikulas and doles out punishments to kids who have been naughty during the previous year.
Saint Nicholas Day is often called “Hungarian Christmas,” but 24 to 26 December are also part of the season. On Christmas Eve, homes are decorated, dinner is prepared, and the Christmas tree is put up and decorated. Adults will often decorate the tree and then tell children that it was brought down by an angel.
The big meal for the season also takes place on Christmas Eve. Many also attend midnight church services on Christmas Eve right after dinner. Others go straight to opening the presents, which in Hungary, are not brought by Santa Claus but by “Jezuska” (Baby Jesus). The children are not allowed in the room when Jezuska arrives with the presents but are close enough to hear when the bell rings, which announces it is time to enter and open the gifts from under the tree. Many families also stand around the Christmas tree and sing carols before opening the presents.