I love learning about Hungarian customs, as well as those of my international colleagues. Earlier this month, I learned of a Hungarian holiday tradition that involves Mikulás (or Szent Miklós) and Krampusz.
December 6 is Szent Miklós day, so Mikulás, the Hungarian version of St. Nicholas, visits children that morning bearing gifts. On December 5, children shine their boots and leave them at the window. Legend has it that if the boots aren’t shiny enough, nothing will be left in them. If children are good (and the boots are shiny), they receive candy, fruit, and (typically small) toys.
Then there’s Krampusz, a beast-like creature who resembles a demon or Satan. Krampusz punishes bad children by leaving them a wooden spoon, coal, or a willow switch in their boots. What I love is that kids usually get the good stuff and a little of the bad stuff, recognizing they aren’t only one or the other.
Instead of Christmas Day, December 24 is more important here, particularly the evening—the holy night. Children receive presents under the tree from baby Jesus or, a more recent version, angels. For the next two days, people spend time with family and friends, celebrating and feasting.
Now that’s a Boldog Karácsonyt!