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 (often fish soup called ‘Halászlé’ which is made with carp or other freshwater fish), stuffed cabbage (the leaves are stuffed with rice, mince pork, onion, garlic and other herbs) and a special kind of poppy bread/cake called ‘Beigli’ is a popular dessert. Gingerbread is also a traditionally eaten at Christmas in Hungary. The gingerbread is often wrapped in very bright colors and decorated with Christmas figures.
The Midnight Mass service is very popular in Hungary. Most people go to Church after their Christmas meal.
On Christmas Eve children also hope that they will be left some presents under the Christmas Tree. They’re told that the presents are brought by Jesus, he’s often called “Jézuska”, a nickname or cuter version for “Jézus”. Children wait outside the room where the tree is and when they hear bells ringing, they can enter and the presents await them under the Christmas tree.
On Christmas Day people visit their families.
St. Nicholas also visits Hungary on the 6th December. In Hungary he is known as ‘Mikulás’. Children leave out shoes or boots on a windowsill to be filled with goodies! Presents might also be brought by Télapó (Old Man Winter).
In Hungarian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Boldog karácsonyt’ (Happy Christmas) or ‘Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket’ (pleasant Christmas holidays). Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.