{Christmas Around the World - Hungary}

"Boldog Karácsonyt!" (pronounced more or less like Bowl-dog Car-ah-chont) is "Merry Christmas" in Hungarian.

One of the things that makes our family's Christmases a little more interesting (and a lot more complicated!) is that we celebrate a mix of English and Hungarian Christmas traditions. Our children are half Hungarian and we live in Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. Hungary is located in central Europe, bordering Austria, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, and the Ukraine. 

In Hungary, there is no Santa Claus that comes on Christmas Eve. Instead, Szent Mikulás (Saint Nicholas) comes on the night of December 5th, filling children's newly polished boots on the windowsills with chocolate, tangerines, nuts, and small gifts. You can read more about the Mikulás tradition here

Walnut and Poppy Seed Beigli
Christmas itself is celebrated on December 24th, not the 25th. On Christmas Eve, families enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner of carp soup, stuffed cabbage, and possibly some other meat (could be pork, chicken, or turkey - likely as breaded and deep-fried cutlets known as ránttot hús), followed by beigli, a sweet pastry roll filled with walnut paste or poppy seed paste.

Száloncukor candies to hang on the tree
After dinner, children often go out for a walk or some other such distraction with their grandparents. While they are out, Baby Jesus comes to the house and delivers presents and a fully-decorated Christmas tree. Trees usually have száloncukor candies hanging on them - chocolate covered candies with various fillings (marzipan, jelly, nougat, etc.), and it's not unusual for there to be real candles on the tree instead of lights. Children come home from their walk to this magical sight and open their presents.

Budapest Christmas Market
One of the highlights of Christmas in Budapest is the Christmas markets. They are a great place to find some special, handcrafted gifts, including beautiful locally made pottery and elaborately decorated gingerbread cookies. Or just wander around drinking forralt bor (mulled wine) or hot apple cider from your special Christmas market mug and eating Hungarian specialties such as mangalica sausages, stuffed cabbage, and roasted chestnuts. Nighttime at the market is especially magical, with all the Christmas lights twinkling.

Stuffed Cabbage

Ummm....rooster testicles stew, anyone??

Some of the challenges for us celebrating a multicultural Christmas here include getting a Christmas tree earlier in the month (although they are becoming more popular and easier to find now), since most Hungarians don't put up their tree until Christmas Eve; and buying a whole turkey to roast for our Christmas dinner - we have to pre-order one specifically from a butcher as you can't buy them in supermarkets. And, of course, 'keeping the story straight' for all the various relatives from each culture can be very complicated and confusing!

Despite the challenges, celebrating a mix of cultural Christmas traditions makes our Christmas special, and reflects who we are as a family. We love that our children are growing up bilingually and biculturally!

If you want to get into the spirit of a Hungarian Christmas, why not try this beigli recipe, or have a go at making some of these lovely decorations made from dried fruits and spices? They smell divine! (Follow these instructions for drying oranges)

Hanging decorations made from dried oranges and limes,
 cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves

How do you celebrate Christmas where you live?

This post is part of the Christmas Around the World series from Living Life Intentionally. Catch up on previous posts in the series to learn about how the holiday is celebrated in other countries! And be sure to get your free Christmas Around the World ebook to accompany the series.

Happy holidays to you, wherever and however you celebrate!