Hungarian Christmas habits

Can’t believe this week’s Sunday is already Christmas Eve! Although this year has gone so fast, I’m still looking forward to Christmas, because it has always been my favourite holiday. Now let’s see how we celebrate it in Hungary:

When the first Sunday of Advent (the fourth weekend before Christmas) takes in, people decorate their homes with ornaments, but the Christmas tree has to wait till 24th December. The Advent wreath is decorated with 4 candles, symbolizing the 4 Sundays and they are each lit with the weeks passing by. Advent Calendars are made for children. They get 24 pieces of chocolate or small gifts that they can open every day. Advent is the period of waiting and it is fulfilled with Jesus Christ’s birth on Christmas Eve. During this 4 week period, everywhere in the country betlehem scenes are displayed that represent the birth of Jesus in the manger. It can be specially made or people can play the roles of Maria, Josef and the Three Kings. And of course we can’t forget about Christmas fairs!

Christmas Eve or Holy Night /December 24th/ is the day when the Christmas tree is decorated, usually in the evening. The decoration consists of Christmas lights, spherical ornaments, little angels and the so called szaloncukor (jelly, or coconut/rum/caramel flavoured sweet coated in chocolate), which is a true Hungaricum. When the tree is ready, it’s time to open presents! At 12 p.m. the midnight mass takes place. Christmas Eve in Hungary is for an intimate celebration with only the closest relatives.

Christmas Day /December 25th/ and Boxing Day /December 26th/ are for major family gatherings and dinners.

What do we eat at Christmas?
Stuffed cabbage and fish soup are the most common dishes, followed by bejgli (cake roll filled with hazelnut or poppy seed), but of course it differs in every family. Some people eat beef soup, pork chops, deep fried fish or turkey (cooked in whole or stuffed with marron). Garnish can be potato salad or purple cabbage. Gingerbread, yeast rings, zserbó (4 layers of pastry filled with hazelnut and apricot jam, chocolate on top) and snow crescent rolls are also very popular.

The Christmas holiday ends with 6th January /Twelfth Night/, when all Christmas decoration are collected and put back to boxes to rest for 11 months.

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