In Hungary, on December 5th, children polish their boots to a gleaming shine and set them on the windowsill, eagerly anticipating what morning will bring.
December 6 is "Mikulás nap" - Saint Nicholas' Day.
Mikulás is traditionally a bishop dressed in red robes, but modern Mikulás generally looks more like the western Santa Claus.
He comes to visit children and remind them of their good and bad deeds of the past year. He brings with him two helpers, an angel-like helper who helps distribute chocolate and small gifts or books for those who have been good, and a naughty impish helper called Krampusz, who leaves a switch of gold twigs to those who have been naughty (to suggest that they are due for a spanking!)
Since nobody is all good or all bad, children usually get both the gifts and the gold switch.
(On December 24th, the Hungarian tradition is for Baby Jesus to visit and bring presents and a decorated Christmas tree in the evening after dinner.)
In our multinational, expat family, we celebrate the holiday with a mix of traditions, so Mikulás visits on December 6th and brings chocolate (and the switch!), and Santa Claus comes on December 24th with presents.
Happy holidays to you, however you celebrate!
*Have you seen our advent calendar round-up yet? Lots of great ideas you can still do!
*And are you following the Creative Christmas Countdown 2011 advent calendar? A group of 24 of your favourite bloggers are bringing you creative ideas you can do with your kids each day up to Christmas! We're scheduled for Day 8, so be sure to check back on Thursday for a fun Christmas craft you can do with your little peas using items you probably already have in your house!
*Update: The 2012 Creative Christmas Countdown is on now!